Panera Bread parent announces CEO transition as it prepares for ‘eventual IPO’

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Customers patronize an open Panera Bread location in the Walt Whitman Mall on March 26, 2020 in Huntington Station, New York.

Bruce Bennett | Getty Images

Panera Bread’s parent company is switching up its leadership as it prepares to go public again.

The announcement, made Tuesday, confirms that the restaurant company is interested in an initial public offering after calling off a deal last year with Danny Meyer’s SPAC to go public again.

The arrangement would have exchanged shares of USHG Acquisition for the sandwich chain’s stock and allowed the company to survive a merger with Panera’s subsidiary Rye Merger. However, Panera scrapped those plans in July, citing market conditions.

JAB Holding, the investment arm of the Reimann family, bought Panera Bread in 2017 for $7.5 billion, taking it private. The firm combined the sandwich chain with Einstein Bros. Bagels and Caribou Coffee to form Panera Brands.

In the press release, Panera Brands said the leadership changes are “in preparation for its eventual IPO.”

Current CEO Niren Chaudhary will step down July 1 but plans to stick around as chairman of the company’s board. Chaudhary served as chief executive for four years after joining the company from Krispy Kreme. JAB Holding also owned the doughnut chain before its IPO in 2021 and still retains a 45% ownership stake, according to Factset.

Einstein Bros. Bagels CEO Jose Dueñas will take the reins from Chaudhary. Before joining the bagel chain in 2019, he served as chief brand officer for Sonic Drive-In. His resume also includes time at Darden Restaurants’ Olive Garden and Kellogg.

In 2022, Panera Brands’ revenue surpassed $4.8 billion. Panera Bread, the largest chain in the portfolio, has long been known as a technology leader in the restaurant industry. Digital orders account for more than half of the chain’s total sales, and its loyalty program has 53 million members. Panera Bread has also been testing A.I. drive-thru order taking and Amazon’s palm-scanning technology.

Panera Brands isn’t the only restaurant company publicly talking about going public. On Friday, Mediterranean fast-casual chain Cava filed to go public through an IPO.

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