I’m meeting a friend at Panera this morning. Did you know that Panera is St. Louis Bread Co. throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area? Of course, you did, if you are reading this in St. Louis. Panera is based in St. Louis and the residents of the area refer to the bakery-cafe simply as Bread Co.
It took me a year of living in Charlottesville to stop calling it Bread Co. And now, when I’m in St. Louis, I call Bread Co. Panera.
It was quite interesting to see how, as St. Louis Bread Co. spread beyond the confines of the borders of America’s biggest small town, it began rebranding itself as the hoity-toity sounding Panera Bread. The few of us who traveled beyond the ‘Lou and came upon one of these restaurants were at first, confused. “Darn it if that place doesn’t look JUST LIKE a Bread Co. but the sign says Panera! What the heck’s a Panera, anyhow?”
Some of us were insulted. Does the company think the St. Louis-associated branding wouldn’t do as well in say, California or Ohio? No matter. We like our sandwiches on artisan bread, fill our conference rooms with bakers’ dozens of bagels and cream cheese, and pop in for a mocha and extensive use of free wifi no matter which name is on the door.
During last May’s Wilco-a-rama in St. Louis, some of the out-of-town concert-goers were overheard saying, “I don’t know why they think they have to call it St. Louis Bread Company here. It’s just Panera.”
Ahem. Excuse me, but it’s really St. Louis Bread Company.
I’ve since become good friends with one of the people who said that, and it’s a running joke between us.
I’m so glad you’ve blogged about this. It’s a point of contention between me and my family in Chi-town. I will NEVER call it Panera. Nope. No matter how far away I move from St. Louis. It’ll still be good old bread co. to me. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!!
All I know is this… we live in Calif., and my 4yo daughter loves Panera (she calls is Paneras with an “s”). She actually selected Panera for her birthday dinner, where she marched up to the counter and said: “I want broccoli cheese soup with bread and chocolate milk!” The manager was shocked that she knew *exactly* what she wanted. Of course, mommy was hoping for a restaurant that serves margaritas, but caved because my kid will only turn 4 once! 😉
— LTV Mom
I was (am) one of those St. Louisans that was insulted that they didn’t keep the name STL Bread Co. I heard from a reliable source that it was indeed renamed because no one outside our area wanted bread from STL. Bite me. (as if I am a chocolate chip muffie)
history: Au Bon Pain bought BreadCo in 1993 and retained much of the BreadCo management, sold off Au Bon Pain stores in 1999, renamed itself Panera EXCEPT in St. Louis because it was such a strong brand here. However, they adopted the BreadCo look and product lines because they were so good. When acquired, BreadCo had 20 stores in St. Louis. There are now 50 here, with almost 1300 company owned and franchise locations throughout the US and expansion into Canada occuring this year. Headquarters is still in St. Louis, or more accurately in Richmond Heights on Clayton Road. stock symbol PNRA.
no, I don’t own stock in them any longer…
When I first saw a Panera (in NY) I thought, “Those theives! Stealing a great idea like St. Louis Bread Co. and calling it Panera! What the heck is a ‘panera’ anyhow?”
Are you sure they’re based in St. Louis though? I thought they started in Springfield, which always confused me. I could be wrong.
How ARE you? I had to comment because my husband and I just had a conversation about this. Our kids call St. Louis Bread Co. “Panera.” We’ve traveled enough and eaten at Bread Co. in so many other towns (probably more often than when we’re in St. Louis) that Panera is the brand they associate with the restaurant. I wonder if they’ll completely rebrand to Panera someday, even in the Lou!
Heard from Julie that business is booming in VA. Keep up the good work!
from Panera’s site http://www.panerabread.com/about/company/
“Where is Panera Bread headquartered?
6710 Clayton Road
Richmond Heights, MO 63117
Tel: (314) 633-7100
Fax: (314) 633-7200
It will always be St. Louis Bread Co. to me.