ST. LOUIS — Higher retail prices and increased sales helped drive a 38% gain in earnings at Panera Bread Co. during the third quarter ended Sept. 29.

For the quarter, the company had net income of $18,894,000, equal to 61c per share on the common stock, up from income of $13,740,000, or 46c per share, during the same quarter of the previous year. Revenue for the quarter was $335,018,000, up 6% from $315,195,000 during the same quarter a year ago.

During the third quarter Panera said its company-owned comparable bakery-cafe sales rose 3.3% versus the comparable period in fiscal 2008. The company said 1.8% transaction growth and 1.5% average check growth during the quarter was fueled by new product introductions, investments in marketing and the improved strength of the catering business.

Panera and its franchisees opened 19 new bakery-cafes during the third quarter, bringing the total number of system-wide bakery-cafes to 1,362.

The company set its initial target for fiscal 2010 earnings per share at $3.05 to $3.15, which would represent an increase of 14% to 18% in year-over-year e.p.s. from the mid-point of the range for fiscal 2009. Panera said it plans to open 80 to 90 new units in fiscal 2010, with slightly more than half being company owned.

For the nine months ended Sept. 29 net income was $56,356,000, or $1.84 per share, up 35% from $41,887,000, or $1.40 per share, in the same period a year ago. Net sales in the nine months totaled $986,521,000, up from 941,041,000.