Panera Bread sells Au Bon Pain to a Yum Brands franchisee

Ampex Brands Family of Companies, a 400-unit operator of Yum concepts and 7-Eleven, will acquire the concept, which is getting a new leadership team.
Panera Bread sells Au Bon Pain
Photograph: Shutterstock

Panera Bread on Tuesday completed the sale of Au Bon Pain to Ampex Brands, a large Yum Brands and 7-Eleven franchisee, opting to shed the concept for the second time in 30 years.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the acquisition will increase Ampex’s revenue by 10% a year. Au Bon Pain has 171 locations.

“We see a solid future for both Au Bon Pain and our broader portfolio,” Ampex CEO Tabbassum Mumtaz said in a statement. He noted that the company’s quick-service brands “performed extraordinarily well throughout the pandemic,” allowing the company to diversify and “jump on a great opportunity to reposition a legacy brand.”

“The bakery/cafe category will rebound, and Au Bon Pain is well-positioned to grow,” he added.

Bakery/cafe chains have indeed struggled during the pandemic as consumers shied away from walking into restaurants. Au Bon Pain’s U.S. system sales fell by nearly a third last year, according to data from Restaurant Business sister company Technomic.

But sales had been struggling before then, too. Global system sales at the chain have declined by an average of 11% the past five years.

The company shares a history with Panera Bread. Ron Shaich founded Au Bon Pain and grew it in the early 1980s before acquiring the St. Louis Bread Company, renaming it Panera, which later sold Au Bon Pain.

Panera bought Au Bon Pain back in 2017, shortly after it was taken private by JAB Holdings. Shaich left the company and now Panera has sold the chain once again.

Now Mumtaz takes his turn to get Au Bon Pain back into growth territory. The company operates Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell, Long John Silver’s and 7-Eleven locations as a franchisee. His company said it would reopen existing Au Bon Pain cafes and then work on expansion strategies.

Ericka Garza, who has worked with both quick-service brands and convenience stores, most recently with Pizza Hut as the senior franchise growth leader, will become Au Bon Pain’s brand president.

“The U.S. is reopening and our markets are coming back to life,” she said. “As we open our cafes, Au Bon Pain’s brand reputation, loyal following, strong real estate and menu position the brand favorably for success.” She said there are opportunities in nontraditional locations and smaller footprint restaurants with less seating.

Brian Bacica, who spent 18 years in food and beverage leadership roles with Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando Parks, will be the chief operating officer. And Beth Collins will serve as Ampex Brands’ first global chief marketing officer, overseeing brand responsibilities for both Au Bon Pain and Ampex. She is a 20-year c-level marketing executive who worked with Raising Cane’s, Texas Land & Cattle and Twin Peaks.

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