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Panera Brands will go public, with an assist from Danny Meyer

Meyer will invest in the owner of Panera Bread, Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros., and his USHG Acquisition Corp. will become a "cornerstone partner" of the company.
Panera Brands
Photo courtesy Panera Brands

Panera Brands, the umbrella group of Panera Bread, Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros., plans to go public—with an assist by restaurateur Danny Meyer, the company announced Tuesday.

Panera Brands, which joins a long list of restaurant chains going public this year, said it intends to file its draft IPO documents. It did not state the number of shares it would offer or their price range.

At the same time, Meyer’s USHG Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) will become a “cornerstone partner” with Panera Brands, according to the announcement. Meyer will also invest directly in the company and will become lead independent director of Panera Brands’ board once the IPO is complete. USHG trades under the ticker symbol HUGS and will invest its proceeds in the IPO. 

JAB Holdings, which is the current owner of Panera Brands, has agreed to make an investment in shares of Panera stock equal to the amount of any redemptions of HUGS shares.

“Under CEO Niren Chaudhary’s leadership, Panera Brands embodies values consistent with HUGS and our Enlightened Hospitality roots, demonstrating that shareholder success is dependent on and driven by an employee-first stakeholder culture,” Meyer said in a statement. “Importantly, Panera Brands meets our investment criteria to combine with a purpose-driven business that is scalable and built for the long-term; a market leader whose greatest strength is its talent and heart; a company where people love to work and with which customers, suppliers and partners love doing business. We are excited to partner with Panera Brands alongside JAB.”

Under the transaction, HUGS will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Panera Brands.

Panera Brands was formed in August, to leverage the success of Panera to help grow the other two fast-casual chains under the mission of “stronger together, growing faster.” The combined company has nearly 4,000 locations and 110,000 employees across 10 countries.

At the time, Chaudhary was mum about possible IPO plans, saying, “We always are thinking and exploring options.”

Panera was acquired by JAB in 2017 for $7.5 billion.

Meyer founded Union Square Hospitality Group in 1985 with the launch of Union Square Café in New York City. Since then, the group has created a large number of other concepts including Daily Provisions, Gramercy Tavern and, perhaps most notably Shake Shack, which now functions as a separate public company.

Several years ago, Meyer launched Enlightened Hospitality Investments, which has invested tens of millions of dollars in restaurant concepts and hospitality-adjacent businesses.

In going public, Panera Brands adds its name to a growing list of restaurant chains that have submitted go-public plans this year. That list includes Sweetgreen, Portillo’s, Krispy Kreme, Dutch Bros and First Watch.

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