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Panera Bread sells Au Bon Pain to Ampex Brands

Franchisee of Yum Brands to rebuild Au Bon Pain after expected operational turnaround

Ampex Brands has acquired Au Bon Pain from Panera Bread, a subsidiary of JAB Holding. The deal was struck June 29. Ampex, a franchisee of Yum Brands and 7-Eleven, will buy Au Bon Pain for an undisclosed amount just 4 years after Panera acquired the bakery-cafe brand.

Through Au Bon Pain’s 171 locations, slightly more than half the number of restaurants it operated or franchised when it was acquired by Panera Bread, Ampex expects to increase revenue by about 10 percent. Au Bon Pain will join Ampex’s other holdings, and the company also received a grant to franchise up to another 131 locations.

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Historically, Au Bon Pain is Panera Bread’s sister chain.

A bet on a bakery-cafe rebound

Ampex has been a franchisee of Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell, Long John Silver’s and 7-Eleven for many years. Now, it embraces a role reversal as the company becomes a franchisor.

With the recent depletion in cafe count, Au Bon Pain will re-emerge with new vigor in new markets in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic as a result of this acquisition. This new growth, starting with company stores, will be phased in after the turnaround of the existing portfolio, according to Ampex.

“We see a solid future for both Au Bon Pain and our broader portfolio,” said Tabbassum Mumtaz, chief executive of Ampex. “Our QSR brands performed extraordinarily well throughout the pandemic as guests moved to drive-thru. That performance allowed us to diversify and jump on a great opportunity to reposition a legacy brand.”

He suggested the bakery cafe category will bounce back and that Au Bon Pain is “well-positioned to grow.”

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New leadership team at Au Bon Pain

Mumtaz put together a team of franchise and operations experts to lead the Au Bon Pain unit, with Ericka Garza as president of the brand. She has a demonstrated expertise in growing franchising concepts. Most recently, Garza managed domestic traditional and nontraditional business in the role of senior franchise growth leader for Pizza Hut.

Also, coming to the team is Brian Bacica as COO. He has spent a career in hospitality tha that has spanned three decades, including 18 years in food and beverage leadership roles for Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando Parks, and most recently as chief executive of PEAK Event Services.

Beth Collins will be part of the leadership team in her new role as global chief marketing officer for Ampex Brands. She will oversee brand responsibilities for both Au Bon Pain and Ampex Brands. Collins has spent two decades in C-level roles at restaurant companies, including Raising Cane’s, Texas Land & Cattle/Lone Star Steakhouse, Twin Peaks, and Lucky Strike Entertainment.

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“The US is reopening, and our markets are coming back to life,” said Garza. “As we open our cafes, Au Bon Pain’s brand reputation, loyal following, strong real estate, and menu position the brand favorably for success. We also see opportunity in its nontraditional locations, currently in transportation hubs, airports, universities and hospitals.”

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