ST. LOUIS — Panera Brands Inc., which includes Panera Bread, Einstein Bros. Bagels and Caribou Coffee, has named Jose Alberto Dueñas as its next chief executive officer. He will succeed Niren Chaudhary, who will become chairman of Panera Brands, effective July 1.
Dueñas has been president and CEO of Einstein Bros. Bagels since 2019. Over the past four years he has led a strategic transformation by focusing the business on winning breakfast and creating a culture that champions the general managers as the organization’s most important leaders, according to Panera Brands. In addition, he played a key role in executing a major operating model simplification that materially improved the guest experience and rapidly expanded digital access to the brands, resulting in significant improvements in unit-level economics and overall margin expansion.
Prior to joining Einstein, Dueñas was chief brand officer at Sonic Drive-In and earlier held leadership positions at Darden Restaurants.
“I’m truly honored to have the opportunity to lead the phenomenal group of people at Panera Brands and be part of what is undoubtedly one of the most iconic brands in food,” Dueñas said. “I believe that with this incredibly dedicated team and our great franchisee partners we can continue to deliver a best-in-class guest experience, increase our positive impact in the communities we serve and accelerate key growth-driving initiatives to prepare the Company for a future public listing.”
Chaudhary will step aside after serving as CEO for the past four years. During that time Panera Brands said it has strengthened its leadership in the fast-casual segment by expanding its leading digital capabilities, which today account for 53% of total sales at Panera Bread, while increasing its loyalty base to 53 million members and launching an innovative loyalty subscription model that has resulted in 25% of all Panera transactions now coming from Unlimited Sip Club members.
Panera also increased its pace of innovation, strengthened franchisee partnerships and led the creation of a strong, people-first culture. Prior to Panera, Mr. Chaudhary was chief operating officer and president of Krispy Kreme International. Before that he spent 23 years with Yum! Brands, Inc. in a variety of roles.
In addition to Dueñas and Chaudhary taking on new roles, Panera said Patrick Grismer will become chairman of the Audit Committee. Grismer is an independent member of Panera’s board of directors and a former chief financial officer at Starbucks. He also has worked as CFO of Hyatt Hotels Corp. and Yum! Brands.
Panera Brands is one of the world’s largest fast-casual restaurant platforms, with 3,852 locations and 120,000 employees, including franchisees, across 11 countries. JAB Holding Co. formed the business in August 2021 as a combination of Panera Bread, Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros. Bagels. Panera said it is continuing to pursue a proposed initial public offering, a strategy it first announced in late 2021.