Panera Bread to buy Au Bon Pain, CEO stepping down

Panera Bread store AP FBN

Panera Bread said Wednesday it agreed to buy rival bakery chain Au Bon Pain, as the company seeks to expand into new locations.

In a separate announcement, Panera Bread said its founder, Ron Shaich, is stepping down as CEO.

Boston-based Au Bon Pain has 304 locations worldwide, including at hospitals, universities and transportation centers. Panera Bread said the acquisition will accelerate its growth in new real estate channels.

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

The move will combine two fast-casual chains that were previously under the same roof. Shaich and Louis Kane created Au Bon Pain in 1981, and they later took the company public before acquiring Saint Louis Bread Company in 1993. The company was renamed Panera Bread, and it sold Au Bon Pain to focus on growing the rest of the business.

Shaich is stepping down from his post nearly four months after the company sold itself to JAB Holding, whose large brand portfolio includes Keurig Green Mountain, Krispy Kreme, Peet’s Coffee & Tea and beauty products company Coty (NYSE:COTY).

Blaine Hurst, Panera Bread’s current president, will take over as CEO. The chain operates more than 2,000 restaurants.