Breakfast sandwiches giving Panera 'a leg up'

by Eric Schroeder
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NEW YORK — Panera Bread Co., which spiced up its menu earlier this spring with the introduction of a Jalapeno and Cheddar Bagel Breakfast Sandwich, will continue to innovate in the breakfast day part, Jeff Kip, senior vice-president and chief financial officer, said at the Piper Jaffray Consumer Conference held June 9 in New York.

Mr. Kip said that while the introduction of the bagel more than 10 years ago gave Panera a presence and credibility in the breakfast category, the more recent introduction of the breakfast sandwich has given the company “a leg up in a new category.”

“It was one of the great wins in 2008 — a tough year,” he said. “One of the reasons we were able to deliver transaction growth in comps better than everybody else is breakfast really outperformed in large part on the strength of the breakfast sandwich.”

In addition to the Jalapeno and Cheddar Bagel Breakfast Sandwich launched in April, Panera offers a bacon, ham or sausage, egg and cheese Bagel Breakfast Sandwich, and an egg and cheese Bagel Breakfast Sandwich. Mr. Kip said the bakery-cafe later this year will add to the line with the introduction of the French Toast Sausage Bagel Breakfast Sandwich.

Panera’s breakfast sandwich line also includes Breakfast Power Sandwich on Whole Grain and Ciabatta Breakfast Sandwiches.

“What we’re really doing is we’re laying out a category where we have a whole line that works really well and that can become a place that gets toward ownership of breakfast sandwich in the high quality, reasonably fast service made fresh,” Mr. Kip said.

Beyond its traditional buy-and-eat retail sales, Mr. Kip said Panera’s baked goods merchandising program continues to evolve.

“If you’ve been in our stores you see display tables that weren’t out there 12 or 18 months ago nicely merchandising the bread, bulk bagels and cookies,” he said. “We’ve in particular had some success selling more of our sweet goods — our cookies and pastries, scones, etc., that way.”

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