- Panera has appointed Niren Chaudhary as CEO, succeeding Blaine Hurst, who is retiring effective May 23, according to a press release.
- Hurst will keep his seat on the board and become a vice chairman, working alongside Chaudhary when he joins the company in early May.
- Chaudhary previously worked as chief operating officer and president of Krispy Kreme and spent more than 20 years in various executive positions at Yum Brands.
Panera's new CEO will have some big shoes to fill. Under Hurst's leadership, the company rolled out an omnichannel strategy that includes Panera 2.0, delivery, catering, brand evolution and a commitment to diversity and inclusion, Panera Chairman and JAB managing partner and CEO Oliver Goudet said in the press release.
As its new CEO, Chaudhary will likely be focused on building out Panera's delivery capabilities, especially when it comes to breakfast, an area that has grown significantly since last year. He will also help the brand's next stage of growth in the U.S. and globally, Goudet said. Given Chaudhary's extensive experience at two major brands, he will likely handle the transition well.
If the CEO change is the start of a global expansion for Panera — which has 2,130 cafes in 48 states and in Ontario — it will join a contingent of QSR brands, namely Starbucks and Dunkin', that have already been growing globally. Many brands that have reached saturation in the U.S. have entered new markets for growth, with many American chains finding success in Asia-Pacific countries in particular.