ST. LOUIS — Thanks in part to increasing sales, Panera Bread Co. posted a 40% increase in net income for the quarter ended March 31.

For the first quarter, the company had net income of $17,432,000, equal to 57c per share on the common stock, up from income of $12,440,000, or 42c per share, during the same quarter of the previous year. Revenue for the quarter was $320,709,000, up 5% from $304,978,000 during the same quarter of the previous year.

"We are very pleased to report 39% earnings growth in Q1," said Ron Shaich, chairman and chief executive officer. "Our hugely successful Share the Warmth celebration in late January drove increased transactions in our breakfast business throughout the quarter and helped offset the weakness we experienced in our catering business due to the recession. In sum, our success in Q1 leaves us confident we’ll be able to hit our 2009 target of 15% to 22% earnings growth."

For the quarter, comparable system-wide bakery-cafe sales were up 0.7% compared with the same quarter of the previous year.

The company also re-affirmed its earnings per share target for the full-year at $2.55 to $2.71 per share.