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Jun 15, 2009 04:11 PM

Panera Bread

I just learned that one of their stores is moving into my neighborhood. I've looked at their on-line menu and it seems like a good addition. Any strong opinions about the quality of their bread, sandwiches or drinks?

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  1. Panera began life as St. Louis Bread Co., with stores located only in St. Louis. Later they spread across Missouri, then to other places, under the Panera name. My daughter, who went to college in St. Louis, liked Bread Co. very much as a place to have some coffee or a light lunch while she studied or just hung out. I've eaten at a couple of the Panera stores around LA (Santa Monica and Westchester), and found both serviceable. I like their soups, and their bread is more than OK -- not La Brea Bakery, but pretty good.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ozhead

      Panera did not begin life as St. Louis Breadco. They purchased St. Louis Bread co.
      They began life as Au Bon Pain Co-

      From their web site-

      Our History
      The Panera Bread legacy began in 1981 as Au Bon Pain Co., Inc. Founded by Louis Kane and Ron Shaich, the company prospered along the east coast of the United States and internationally throughout the 1980s and 1990s and became the dominant operator within the bakery-cafe category.

      In 1993, Au Bon Pain Co., Inc. purchased Saint Louis Bread Company, a chain of 20 bakery-cafes located in the St. Louis area.

      You are not the first person to say they began as St. Louis Breadco. I am not sure why people have that impression.


      1. re: FriendOfTheDevil

        Maybe because the St. Louis Bread Co. locations converted to Panera locations:

        "The company then managed a comprehensive re-staging of Saint Louis Bread Co. Between 1993 and 1997 average unit volumes increased by 75%. Ultimately the concept's name was changed to Panera Bread."

        Au Bon Pain locations remains in their original form.

        1. re: ferret

          Au Bon Pain is also a separate company after 1999 and was taken over by its management in 2005. The original company took the new name Panera instead. It's a weird history, really, since what happened was it seems in a nutshell: ABP bought St Louis Bread, essentially decided that the basis of the St Louis Bread concept was better suited for big expansion than their own original ABP concept, and went forward with that purchased concept as Panera while leaving ABP as it was and eventually divesting it. Panera does have about 4x as many locations these days, but the concepts seem similar apart from how the service goes. Panera is a behind the counter fast casual ordering with checkout at the beginning; ABP has gone to quite a lot of self service in most locations, with checkout after you pick up everything (even if you get something made from behind the counter).

          I've grown tired of Panera, only been a couple times in the last few years. I still go to ABP occasionally as there's one near the office. In our area (Pittsburgh). corporate-owned ABPs are only downtown and Paneras are almost exclusively in the suburbs (zero in the main biz district, a couple in the university area).

    2. panera is for those folks who don't mind partially hydrogenated oils (i.e. transfats) to be an ingredient in baked goods.

      3 Replies
      1. re: westsidegal

        That's not at all true:

        If you pull up the various nutritional pdfs on their website you'll see zero trans fats in all but some dairy products. Definitely not in their baked goods.

        1. re: ferret

          good to hear bc i was starting to get upset, i love their sourdough but was certainly not going to continue my obsession if it was all packed with random garbage

          1. re: ferret

            when they first opened in westchester, i asked at the store for their ingredient information. transfat was in much of their stuff at the time.
            according to the article you've cited they removed the transfat later on.

            it's interesting to me that they didn't post anything in their stores about the removal of the transfat.

            thanks for the valuable information!

        2. It's absolutely nothing special but good in a clutch. There's a Panera and a Baja Fresh next to my office and I always find myself going to Baja when I'm hungry and have no plans.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ExtraCheesePlease

            I would ditto the reply above. I like the concept, but it seems the execution is just mediocre.

          2. I really like their new breakfast sandwiches. The way they cook their egg and the vermont white cheddar just does it for me. Their other food items are decent, better than a lot of fast food but not as good as some.

            1 Reply
            1. re: RobynS

              Ditto on the breakfast sandwich - it's a much better Egg McMuffin. Their other offerings are pretty good.

            2. I moved from New York to Florida in 2003 and have been unable to duplicate New York bread - Panera is one of the best in Florida compared to what else is offered. Their sandwiches and salads are pretty good overall.

              3 Replies
              1. re: annemarie07

                I actually love their baguette. However, I cannot stomach their sanwiches and find them overpriced to boot. I forgot what it was called but the vegetarian sammi that was supposed to have hummus had the tiniest shmeer that it was almost nonexistent. I've had a "turkey" sandwich that tasted like processed turkey- the kind you'd find at subway. Blech. Their soups- nothing special,; usually oversalted and underspiced. Their salads- the plate first of all is annoying; I can never mix the salad properly because it keeps spilling over the sides. The salads are ok- but again, nothing memorable.

                1. re: NicoleFriedman

                  I'm not vegetarian by any means, but I really do like the veggie sandwich at Panera. It could use a little more hummus, but I still find it fresh and satisfying when I am looking for a light lunch, which is fairly often when working outdoors in South Florida heat all summer.

                2. re: annemarie07

                  Anne Marie,
                  Another ex-NYer now living on the the space coast that thinks what passes as Rye bread down here is a sad, cruel joke!