Au Bon Pain is starting to add locations again

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Au Bon Pain opened a store in New York this month.

This may not seem like a big deal. But for this concept, it really is. The bakery-café chain has lost many of its locations over the years and remains well below where it was before the pandemic. It is also the first new location under the brand’s new owners, franchisee Ampex Brands.

The location opened on the second floor of Macy’s Rego Park in New York’s Queens Center, the brand’s second inside a New York Macy’s.

Ampex, a 400-unit operator of Yum Brands and 7-Eleven concepts, acquired Au Bon Pain last year from Panera Bread.

Au Bon Pain hopes the new opening will be the first of a number of new locations in New York City, where the brand operates 14 restaurants. The company primarily operates in urban areas and non-traditional markets such as airports, transportation hubs and college campuses.

These types of places haven’t really thrived during the pandemic. System sales were just $188 million last year, up 17% from 2020, but still down 43% from just three years ago.

However, he closed units long before. The company currently operates 123 locations in the United States, split roughly evenly between company locations and franchises. That’s well below a peak of over 200 locations a decade ago.

Au Bon Pain has had a complicated ownership history. The brand was founded in 1978 and Ron Shaich acquired the brand three years later and took it public in 1991. In 1993 it acquired Saint Louis Bread Company and later renamed it Panera Bread. Panera then sold Au Bon Pain to private equity firm Bruckman, Rosser, Sherrill & Co.

Panera Bread, which went private in 2017, acquired the brand the same year while Shaich was still involved. Shaich eventually left that company, and last year Panera opted to merge with Einstein Bros Bagels and Caribou Coffee, creating Panera Brands. She then sold Au Bon Pain to Ampex.

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