Panera sees potential in flatbread roll-out

by Eric Schroeder
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ST. LOUIS — The upcoming launch of flatbread into a new platform is part of a broader plan at Panera Bread Co. designed to enhance the company’s competitive position by bringing renewed innovation to the bakery-cafe’s food.

“I think they offer the potential to materially differentiate Panera in the broader marketplace,” Ron Shaich, chairman and chief executive officer, said during an April 30 conference call with analysts to discuss first-quarter results. “We’re doing flatbreads in a way that only Panera can. The flatbread itself will be baked in the cafe from fresh dough and created in the artisan style of the Indian tandoori.

“These breads provide a platform designed to allow our guests to experiment with new seasonings and new spices and will allow Panera to offer our target customer an elevated experience with innovative new flavors.”

Another initiative on the minds of company executives is the release of a food policy. Mr. Shaich declined to go into much detail about Panera’s food policy, saying the bakery-cafe’s aim in articulating its food policy publicly will be “to give voice to what is at the very core of our consumers’ trust and confidence in Panera.”

“Since its founding several decades ago, Panera has stood for making a positive difference in the lives of our guests, and we believe that by sharing our food policy with the world now, we will provide our customers even greater transparency, relative to what is in our food, leading to greater choice in what they choose to eat,” Mr. Shaich said. “As well, we believe our ongoing commitment to simple and understandable ingredients serves as a foundation for food that tastes better and is better for you. Specifically, the food policy we will roll out this summer will further strengthen the trust customers have in Panera.”

Net income at Panera in the first quarter ended April 1 was $42,395,000, equal to $1.55 per share on the common stock, down 12% from $48,117,000, or $1.65 per share, in the same period a year ago. Revenues increased 8% to $605,337,000 from $561,779,000.
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