Panera firmly focused on the food

by Monica Watrous
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Panera plans to focus on sandwiches this fall.
Panera plans to focus on sandwiches this fall, specifically on turkey breast free of antibiotics and artificial ingredients.

ST. LOUIS – Food always has differentiated Panera Bread Co. from its competitors, and that focus on food is expected to be central to the bakery-cafe’s success in the future, Ron Shaich, founder, chairman and CEO, said during a July 29 conference call with analysts.

“As some people around here say, ‘It’s the food, stupid,’ and I think we believe that intently,” Shaich said.

Net income at Panera Bread in the second quarter ended June 30 was $41,929,000, equal to $1.60 per share on the common stock, down 15 percent from $49,192,000, or $1.83 per share, in the same period a year ago. Revenues, though, increased 7 percent to $676,657,000 behind strength at company-owned cafes.

During the second quarter Panera unveiled its “no no list” cataloging the more than 150 artificial additives it is removing from its bakery-cafes. Shaich called the list “a transparent line in the sand intended to ensure customers that they can count on Panera for food that is free of artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and sweeteners.”

He said the intersection between food that is good for you and food that is simply good is the biggest need state in the restaurant industry, and Panera is positioned well to meet that need.

Panera's healthful foods include several new menu items such as the Mediterranean Quinoa and Chicken salad.
Panera released several new healthful menu items like the Mediterranean Quinoa and Chicken salad.

“Customers tell us they want to feel like they’re not sacrificing either health or quality to eat what they crave,” he explained. “Understanding this phenomenon, we spent much of 2014 researching consumer trends and behavior in refining our brand promise to make it more relevant. What we came to learn is that Panera has the credibility to win in this space. We’ve always led the industry in transparency and offering higher quality, lower calorie, nutritious foods. In fact, through the years, consumers continue to give Panera very high scores for the healthfulness of our foods and the healthfulness of Panera in general.”

Those healthful foods include several new menu items introduced during the second quarter, including Kale Caesar and Mediterranean Quinoa and Chicken salads.

“These items are keeping with our goal of pushing the imaginative edges of our foods and making the familiar fantastic,” Shaich said.

He said the company will turn its attention to sandwiches this fall, with a specific focus on clean proteins, including carved, slow roasted turkey breast free of antibiotics and artificial ingredients. A new featured item will be an orchard apple roasted turkey and white Vermont cheddar sandwich.

Also this fall, Panera will transition all flatbreads to 15 grams of whole grain per serving.

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