ST. LOUIS — Profit at Panera Bread Co. increased 24% in the second quarter behind strong sales at its bakery-cafes. Net income in the quarter ended June 26 was $44,137,000, equal to $1.51 per share on the common stock, up from $35,710,000, or $1.20 per share, in the same period a year ago. Total revenue during the second quarter totaled $530,591,000, up 18% from $451,080,000.

Sales from company-owned stores open at least a year rose 7.1% during the second quarter, while sales for franchise-operated bakery-cafes rose 4.8%.

Panera said it generated operating margin improvement of about 90 basis points during the second quarter, driven by improved bakery-cafe margins resulting from sales leverage.

“These improvements were partially offset by higher general and administrative expenses and higher costs as a per cent of fresh dough and other product sales to franchisees, driven primarily by year-over-year wheat price inflation,” Panera said.

For the first half of fiscal 2012, net income rose 25% to $85,321,000, or $2.92 per share, up from $68,484,000, or $2.29 per share, in the first half of fiscal 2011. Total revenues increased 18% to $1,029,170,000 from $873,180,000.

The company said it expects its revenue growth to continue in the near future. It forecast earnings of $1.16 to $1.18 per share for its third quarter, and expects to earn $1.66 to $1.70 per share for the fourth quarter.

Panera also said it expects to earn $5.72 to $5.78 per share for its full fiscal year, which compares with market forecasts of $5.67 per share.