Panera Bread is buying the Boston-based bakery-cafe chain Au Bon Pain for an undisclosed amount.
The acquisition is part of Panera’s plan to expand its footprint beyond the traditional storefronts most customers see today. Panera is interested in pushing into unconventional places like hospitals, universities, transportation centers, and urban locations. Panera is already a behemoth compared to Au Bon Pain, operating 2,050 bakery-cafes in 46 states and in Ontario, Canada, under the Panera Bread, Saint Louis Bread Co., or Paradise Bakery & Cafe names. Meanwhile, Au Bon Pain has about 304 locations.
The transaction is expected to close during the fourth quarter.
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While the companies have been competitors, they didn’t start that way. The acquisition is actually a reunion.
Panera founder Ron Shaich, who is chairman and CEO of the company, created Au Bon Pain Co. in 1981 with his late partner Louis Kane. The company went public in 1991. Two years later, after acquiring Saint Louis Bread Company, they changed the name to Panera.
Au Bon Pain stores were sold in 1999 so the company could focus its resources on scaling up Panera.
Panera was acquired earlier this year by privately held investment firm JAB for $7.5 billion. JAB also owns Keurig Green Mountain, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, and Peet’s Coffee & Tea, all brands that have been acquired in the past five years.