Panera Bread on Friday named former Krispy Kreme and Yum Brands executive Niren Chaudhary CEO.
Chaudhary takes over for Blaine Hurst, who is retiring next month but will remain on the company’s board as its vice chairman.
Chaudhary had been the chief operating officer and president of Krispy Kreme International since 2017. Before that, he’d spent 23 years with Yum Brands in a variety of executive positions.
Olivier Goudet, chairman of Panera and managing partner of JAB Holding Co., the chain’s majority investor, called Chaudhary “a recognized industry leader with an impressive track record of establishing brands and leading companies to achieve growth in markets around the world.”
Hurst will retire as CEO effective May 23. He will remain with Panera after Chaudhary joins the company in early May to ensure a smooth transition into the new role, the company said.
Hurst is a nine-year veteran of Panera Bread. He had been the company’s president before being named CEO to succeed founder Ron Shaich in late 2017, following the company’s sale to JAB.
Goudet said that Hurst “played a significant role in making Panera a leader in the industry,” noting his role in the technology-heavy Panera 2.0 remodel as well as the addition of delivery.
Hurst, Goudet said, will work alongside JAB’s other brands to help them add technology in their restaurants. He specifically mentioned Pret A Manger, which JAB bought last year; the company also owns Caribou Coffee, Bruegger’s and Einstein Bros. Bagels, Krispy Kreme, Peet’s Coffee and many others.
Chaudhary joins a brand with more than 2,300 locations, as well as ownership of 304-unit Au Bon Pain. Panera’s U.S. sales rose 4.7% last year, according to Technomic data, and it is the country’s 10th-largest restaurant chain.
Hurst said it was a “difficult decision to retire” but believes Panera is “well-positioned for continued long-term success with Niren taking on the role of CEO.”