Founder, Chairman & CEO, Panera Bread Company
Ron Shaich is founder, chairman and CEO of Panera Bread, a groundbreaking restaurant brand that today has more than 2,040 bakery-cafes, 100,000 associates and more than $5 billion in annual system wide sales. Ron is highly respected for his ability to recognize and capitalize on marketplace opportunities. In addition to founding Panera, which established the high-growth fast-casual restaurant segment, Ron earlier in his career founded and grew Au Bon Pain, establishing the bakery-cafe segment. With both companies he disrupted an existing industry paradigm and found new pathways to building companies of value and with values. The result: Panera is the best-performing restaurant stock when measured over the last 20 years, delivering a total shareholder return of 9,753% from April 18, 1997 to April 24, 2017, compared to 210% for the S&P 500 during the same time period. Indeed, Panera’s stock has generated annualized returns of 26% in the same time frame.
Over the last five years, Ron has developed and executed a powerful strategic plan to make Panera a better competitive alternative with expanded runways for growth. The strategy tapped into powerful themes that are shaping the restaurant industry and are only now being adopted by competitors, including digital, wellness, loyalty, omni-channel and new formats for growth. At the end of Q1 2017, 26% of Panera’s sales were digital – an industry-leading figure bested only by the big three pizza players. Panera was the first and only national restaurant chain with a menu free of artificial preservatives, flavors, sweeteners and colors from artificial sources. Its loyalty program was the largest in the industry at 25 million members with half of transactions made through the program. And its omni-channel approach led the industry, with delivery available in 24% of the system and catering sales growing 11%.
Ron has been recognized repeatedly for his visionary leadership. Earlier this year, he was named the second most influential leader in the restaurant industry by Nation’s Restaurant News in its 2017 Power List. He was also awarded the Nation’s Restaurant News 2011 Pioneer Award for being one of the most significant contributors to the history of the restaurant industry. Past winners have included Colonel Harland Sanders, Ray Kroc, Norman Brinker and J. Willard Marriott Sr. Ron was awarded IFMA’s Gold Plate Award for being the industry’s outstanding leader in 2005. And he twice received the Nation’s Restaurant News Golden Chain Award, recognizing industry leadership and success. In addition, Ron was a national finalist for Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2003.
Known for his innovative management style and social consciousness, Ron has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, The Economist, TIME, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, TheStreet.com, Bloomberg News and on MSNBC, NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News and ABC World News Tonight and in several books. He is a LinkedIn Influencer and a frequent guest on CNBC. Ron serves as President of the Panera Bread Foundation and spearheaded the Panera Cares initiative, through which the Foundation creates nonprofit community cafes aimed at addressing issues related to food insecurity. He sits on the board of Whole Foods Market Inc., and formerly served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Clark University and on the boards of the Rashi School, the Lown Cardiovascular Foundation and the Alliance for Business Leadership. Ron is also a co-founder of No Labels, an organization that promotes bipartisan political problem solving and the development of a long-term strategic plan for the country.
Ron received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Clark University and a Master of Business Administration degree from Harvard Business School. He is also the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Clark University.