Company to Watch: St. Louis Bread Company (Or Panera)

Panera is one of those names and chains you cannot pinpoint where its origins are. Is Panera Spanish for bakery? Not exactly. Is it a New York style deli or a suburban casual dining joint that can be found next to a JC Penney’s? Neither aptly describe what the Panera experience is.

In today’s restaurant world, Panera is a hard-to-define, surprisingly cosmopolitan (or originless!) concept that has worked successfully around the United States in a rapidly growing segment of restaurants—Café bakeries.

Many people are surprised to know that in St. Louis, Panera does not exist. The original name for its bakery is St. Louis Bread Company. This hip sandwich joint is from St. Louis out of all places? What do they even have there? All I know is  St. Louis has a giant, silver arch in their city that does not really do anything.

Regardless, quality sandwiches can earn you a ton of money. Just look at Panera’s numbers!

  • Research firm, Technomic, reports that 71% of 1,500 survey respondents had been to a café-bakery within the last year 2010 compared to 43% in 2008.
  • Sales in the café bakery segment has grown 12 percent from 2008. 1
  • Panera’s 2010 nationwide sales were $2.9 billion beating all its competition by a significant margin. Number 2 café bakery chain, Tim Horton’s, reported $443 million in nationwide sales. 1

Why is Panera so successful? Look for a post on October 15.

(1) Study: Bakery-café segment expanding from the Nation’s Restaurant News


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5 thoughts on “Company to Watch: St. Louis Bread Company (Or Panera)

  1. St. Louis represent! How much of their success do you think is attributed to their name change? Does it make a difference?
    By the way, the link is not working; it has a ” at the end

    • There was no name change. St. Louis Bread Co has always been that and Panera has always been Panera. Yes, it might be interesting to compare sales of St. Louis Bread Co to Panera but it’s hard to tell whether sales from two comparable stores with different names are affected by the name itself or merely by the region it’s in. In a laboratory experiment we would want to see a St. Louis Bread Co be set up somewhere other than St Louis and compare that with a nearby Panera.

      Starbucks has done this with creating private label cafes that do not bear the Starbucks name… Those cafes do a lot more poorly than ones that have the Starbucks name.

  2. Very interesting! I had no idea that Panera’s annual sales were so much higher than all its competitors. I’ve actually only been to Panera twice in my life.

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