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Panera: You’re Welcome


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Mike Mozart

In winter of 2000, I was putting Panera on a path to being one of the most expensive restaurant acquisitions in history by a group of highly caffeinated Luxembourgers.

When Panera came to my Minnesota hamlet, it was an exciting prospect. And having recently left a lucrative position at Spencer’s Gifts, I was ready for some teenage career growth.

For about six months, an eternity to us millennials, I ran the salad line, de-bagged soup, made sandwiches, burned my hands on sheet pans, swept (no help from Tina), mopped, moped and ate desserts in the cooler with cute apron-clad girls. It was a formative experience—for the brand that is.

Without my or my successors’ constant theft of those delicious desserts, rolls, and so many bagels that my ancient VW Rabbit smelled like Cinnamon Crunch months after my departure—the brand never would have had to get better. AUVs of more than $2.5 million just aren’t necessary if all that product had just made it to customers. And I doubt Panera would ever have invested so heavily in technology around the 2.0 update. Plus, why would a café bother with delivery? Without all that, I doubt the $7.5 billion acquisition by Joh A. Benckiser (JAB) would have happened at all.  

I’m not sure exactly how much of his payout CEO Ron Shaich, who owns 13.5 percent of the company, will send my way. Maybe all those bagels have covered my own portion of the sale already, but I hope Shaich and the whole management team remember who got them there: the little people, with our pockets full of bagels.

(Anyone know the statute of limitations on bagel theft?)

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