Chaudhary has more than 25 years of international corporate leadership experience in the food retail and hospitality industry.
He joins Panera from Krispy Kreme – another JAB portfolio company – where he has been COO and president of Krispy Kreme International since 2017.
He also spent 23 years with Yum Brands in a variety of executive positions, including president of KFC Global and president of Yum! India.
“Niren is a recognized industry leader with an impressive track record of establishing brands and leading companies to achieve growth in markets around the world,” said Oliver Goudet, Panera chairman and JAB managing partner.
Hurst – who joined Panera in 2010, holding various roles before being appointed its CEO last year after its outspoken founder and CEO Ron Shaich stepped down – will remain on the fast-casual restaurant chain’s board and become its vice chairman.
He will also work with parent company JAB “to help accelerate the technology transformation of our other food portfolio brands such as Pret a Manger,” said Goudet.
Hurst spearheaded Panera 2.0, the company’s $100m digital platform that redesigned how cafes and kitchens operate and created the systems and technology infrastructure to support multiple digital ordering channels.
Last year, Panera processed more than 30% of its orders digitally with digital sales surpassing $2bn.
“I look forward to this next chapter as Panera’s vice chairman and helping JAB, our majority investor, with technology initiatives and other potential projects, while also having the opportunity to spend more time with my family,” said Hurst.
Luxembourg-based JAB acquired Panera in a $7.5bn deal in July 2017, making it a private company.
Panera has over 2,000 company-owned or franchised bakery-cafes in 48 US states and in Ontario, Canada, operating under the Panera Bread or Saint Louis Bread Co. names.
JAB also owns the Caribou Coffee, Peet's Coffee & Tea and Keurig Green Mountain brands, as well as Einstein Bros. Bagels.