The April 4 announcement that JAB Holdings Inc. — the company that owns Krispy Kreme and Caribou Coffee, among others — had purchased Panera Bread for more than $7 billion rocked the restaurant industry, in part because of its sheer magnitude.
The deal is the second largest restaurant deal ever made in North America, The Associated Press reported, second only to the buyout of Tim Hortons fast food chain in 2014 by the parent company of Burger King.
But local Panera customers had more pressing concerns: “What’s the impact going to be on my local Panera?”
That question is complicated by the fact that all Dayton- and Springfield-area Paneras are not operated by Panera directly, but rather, by Covelli Enterprises, which is based in Warren in northeast Ohio. Covelli is the largest franchisee of Panera Bread cafes in the U.S., with more than 300 Panera locations in six states.
Covelli Enterprises entered the Dayton-Springfield market in 2014, purchasing what were then 11 Panera locations, and said at the time it had big expansion plans for the region. Within two years, it had opened two new locations, not in Dayton’s southern suburbs where many restaurant chains were flocking, but in northern Montgomery County, in Englewood and Huber Heights.
Covelli’s expertise earned recognition from its larger corporate partner. Earlier this year, Panera awarded Covelli Enterprises the “Franchisee of the Year” designation, which is given to a franchise company based on its operational excellence, market growth, café openings, market acquisitions and financial performance.
This news outlet contacted Covelli Enterprises within minutes after the news broke about the sale to JAB Holdings to try to find out how the sale could affect the franchisee. But at the time, a spokeswoman deflected all questions about the transaction to Panera’s corporate offices.
Nearly a week after the announcement, and after the dust settled a bit on the bombshell announcement, the same spokeswoman for Covelli provided responses from Sam Covelli, the owner/operator of Covelli Enterprises. Here’s what the top officer of Panera’s top franchisee had to say:
By becoming privately held, Panera will not have the expectations that are put on a publicly traded company by Wall Street. Becoming a private company will allow Panera to be exclusively focused on what is best for the customer, not the shareholders. It will also allow for a focus on growing the business for the long-term.
I see a very bright future. We have a great brand that fits perfectly with what people tastes are in today’s society. For example, our menu is 100 percent clean with no additives or preservatives.
We have a great organization with the best people in the restaurant industry working for us in our cafés. We are rolling out some great new initiatives, with our Café-based delivery and the kiosk ordering systems in the stores.
As long as we can give our guests the quality experience we are giving to them currently, we will continue to grow.