Panera Bread buyout of prominent competitor could impact Miami Valley

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Panera to buy out Au Bon Pain, could have effects on Miami Valley

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Panera Bread will buy out a competitor with which it shares some business DNA — and the impact of the merger could be felt in the Dayton-Springfield area.

Panera officials announced Wednesday they have agreed to acquire Au Bon Pain’s parent company. The Boston-based Au Bon Pain bakery-cafe chain has 304 units worldwide, including one that opened this fall on the University of Dayton’s campus.

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It’s been a year of change for Panera: In July, it was bought for more than $7 billion by JAB Holding Co., a European company that controls Krispy Kreme, Peet’s Coffee and other chains, according to the Associated Press.

RELATED: Local franchisee speaks out about Panera Bread buyout

The 13 Panera Bread restaurants in the Dayton-Springfield area operated by Warren, Ohio-based Covelli Enterprises, which is the largest franchisee of Panera Bread cafes in the U.S. Covelli oversees more than Panera locations in at least six states.

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Covelli Enterprises has been in the Dayton market only since 2014, when it announced that it had purchased what were then 11 Panera locations. At the time, Covelli said it had big expansion plans for the Dayton-area market, and in 2016, it put its money behind those plans buy opening two new locations, in Englewood and in Huber Heights.

RELATED: Opening day today for Huber Heights Panera

The parent company's buyout of Au Bon Pain is part of Panera's initiative "to intensify growth in new real estate channels, including hospitals, universities, transportation centers and urban locations," according to Restaurantnews.com. Au Bon Pain focuses on exactly those venues.

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Panera Bread has announced it will buy out Au Bon Pain. FILE

Panera Bread has announced it will buy out Au Bon Pain. FILE

Combined ShapeCaption
Panera Bread has announced it will buy out Au Bon Pain. FILE

It’s not immediately clear what impact this merger will have on the Dayton area’s only Au Bon Pain location inside UD’s student union, which is open to the public. Au Bon Pain officials said they would consider looking for other locations in the region after the opening of the UD restaurant.

The buyout will bring Au Bon Pain and Panera together again, Restaurantnews.com reported. Ron Shaich, Panera’s founder, chairman and CEO, and his late partner Louis Kane created Au Bon Pain in 1981. The company went public in 1991 and acquired Saint Louis Bread Company in 1993. Saint Louis Bread was renamed Panera and, in 1999, Au Bon Pain was sold so that resources could be focused on Panera.

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Shaich will step down as CEO effective Jan. 1, 2018. He will remain chairman of Panera’s board of directors and will continue to work on strategy, communications and acquisitions for Panera, company officials said. Blaine Hurst, Panera’s president who has led many of the company’s most significant innovations over the last half decade, will become CEO. Hurst previously served as president of Papa John’s Pizza’s corporate parent.

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