The St. Louis-based café restaurant chain did not disclose the terms of the deal – expected to close by the fourth quarter – but did say Shaich, 63, would remain as chairman of Panera’s board of directors.
Charismatic Shaich – known for his outspokenness on social issues – will hand over the CEO reigns to Blaine Hurst on January 1, 2018.
Blaine, 60, joined Panera in January 2011 as president, following a stint as president of Papa John’s pizza chain.
The right time
“This is the right time for me to step down as CEO while still staying involved in the business,” said Shaich, who has lead the company for 36 years.
He said he will continue to work on strategy and future acquisitions for Panera, as well as initiatives for JAB Holding, which acquired Panera in July for $7.5bn.
The Luxembourg-based investment firm also controls the Krispy Kreme Doughnuts chain.
The acquisition of Au Bon Pain – which Shaich co-founded in the 1980s – will open new retail environments for Panera.
Au Bon Pain has shops in over 300 locations worldwide, located in hospitals, universities, transportation hubs and offices.
Reuniting old flames
“We are bringing Au Bon Pain and Panera together again,” said Shaich. “This acquisition offers the strategic opportunity for us to grow in several new real estate channels.”
Shaich merged his cookie store, the Cookie Jar, with Louis Kane’s Au Bon Pain in 1981 and a decade later, the company went public, appointing Shaich as CEO.
Au Bon Pain acquired Saint Louis Bread in 1993, renaming the company Panera Bread.
In 1999, Shaich sold Au Bon Pain to a private equity firm to focus on the growing Panera brand.
Panera has over 2,000 locations in 46 states, operating under the Panera Bread, Saint Louis Bread Co. and Paradise Bakery & Cafe names, and employs around 100,000 people.
Earlier this year, Panera tweaked its menu to appeal to health-conscious Americans, removing artificial preservatives, sweeteners, flavors and colors from its food.