- Panera Bread, Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros. Bagels have formed Panera Brands, a platform of fast casual restaurants, according to a press release. The combined company will have nearly 4,000 locations.
- Niren Chaudhary has been appointed Group CEO of Panera Brands and will continue as CEO of Panera Bread. Einstein Bros. Bagels CEO José Alberto Dueñas and CEO of Caribou Coffee John Butcher will continue in their positions while also reporting to Chaudhary.
- The formation of this group follows rumors in April that Panera Bread could return to the public market after five years as a private company.
Bringing together like-minded brands is part of JAB's current strategy and could further hint that the company is in fact planning to take Panera public. JAB already pushed its subsidiary Krispy Kreme into the public market earlier this year.
JAB also brought together Peet's Coffee and Jacobs Douwe Egberts and formed JDE Peet's in January 2020. Later that year, JDE Peet's went public in Europe and became one of the largest European IPOs after selling 71.4 million shares for 2.25 billion euros ($2.7 billion) in 2020.
Even if Panera Brands doesn't go public, the combination of these three brands could give Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros Bagels access to Panera's technology features, including its digital infrastructure, popular loyalty program, robust food innovation pipeline, supply chain and well-capitalized franchise owners, according to the press release.
The group is already eyeing growth in the form of new cafes, ghost kitchens for delivery only and new locations in other countries, according to Reuters. It could also introduce consumer packaged goods.
Panera Bread could potentially encourage its 44 million MyPanera loyalty members to visit the other two brands. It's coffee subscription program, which helped increase visits by 70% during its initial pilot phase, could provide greater insights on how to boost traffic at Caribou Coffee.
Panera also unveiled new technology during the pandemic to improve the ordering experience and offer additional convenience while dining rooms remained closed. It was among the first chains to offer GPS-enabled curbside pickup last year. In April, the company partnered with Adobe to improve Panera's mobile ordering and curbside experience by collecting customer order data. The company used the data to determine where customers come across issues so it can suggest reordering the same items or offer pickup options. Panera's e-commerce sales now make up 45% of its total sales, according to the press release.
Panera has also been developing new store designs and rolled out a prototype in May with a double drive-thru with one lane dedicated to Rapid Pick-Up service. The prototype features digital menus, updated ordering kiosks and automatic loyalty identification. Caribou Coffee, which typically operates small-format stores with a small dining room or none at all, could also provide additional learnings to Panera since much of Caribou's products are delivered via drive-thru. In 2019, Caribou Coffee rolled out a drive-thru format with walk-up service counters and no dining room seating in Minnesota.