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Panera Is Swallowing One of Its Biggest Competitors for a Huge Expansion

Credit: Getty Images/Michael Ochs Archives/Waring Abbott/Contributor

Lovers of soup and bread rejoice: Panera Bread will soon be the proud owner of Au Bon Pain.

On top of its 2,050 US locations, Panera will add roughly 200 US Au Bon Pains and around 100 more abroad. Thus far, no plans have been announced to rebrand those locations, but according to a press release, Panera is attempting to grow Au Bon Pan in “new real estate channels, including hospitals, universities, transportation centers and urban locations, among others.” 

This melding of cafe minds is thanks to Luxembourg-based JAB Holding Co., which owns Panera Bread, Krispy Kreme, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, and Caribou Coffee. JAB is thought to be making a play at coffee domination to more fiercely compete with Starbucks. You might have heard recent speculation that the company would purchase Dunkin' Donuts, but this development makes that less likely, according to a report by Bloomberg. Details of this deal have yet to be disclosed, but JAB paid $7.2 billion for Panera several months ago.

Oddly, this isn't the first time the two companies will be one. Panera's CEO Ron Shaich founded Au Bon Pain with Louis Kane in 1981. That company later acquired Saint Louis Bread Co., which became Panera. When Au Bon Pain was sold in 1999, that left Shaich as CEO of Panera. After 18 years, the brands are together again, but he'll also be stepping down, per the report.

Whatever bread-forward future this brings for the two companies, rest assured there will be plenty of soup and gluten. And probably some of those apples you never end up eating. 

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James Chrisman is a News Writer at Thrillist who has a humorous anecdote about Au Bon Pain, but this isn't the time or the place. Send news tips to news@thrillist.com and follow him on Twitter @james_chrisman2.