Boston mainstay Au Bon Pain sold, again

Au Bon Pain, the Boston-born coffeehouse chain that has been a mainstay for generations of office workers and travelers, is once again changing hands – this time to an owner hoping to help the brand get back on its feet after being hit. by the pandemic.

The company, which has been owned for three years by parent company Panera Bread, was acquired by Ampex Brands, based in Richardson, Texas. Ampex operates a group of Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell, Long John Silver’s and 7-Eleven stores, and with the acquisition, it gets its own brand that it can franchise to other operators.

The new owner, who said he finalized the acquisition on Tuesday, intends to expand the footprint of Au Bon Pain, which faced a particularly difficult task during the pandemic and has closed many stores – including at least one in downtown Boston – in the past 15 months.

Au Bon Pain has 171 locations, up from more than 300 when Panera owner JAB Holdings bought it in 2017. The company has around 200 employees, and those who were based in its Boston office will become distant as the corporate headquarters will move to Texas. .

While quick service restaurants have generally performed well over the past year, Au Bon Pain has been limited by the concentration of its stores in office districts, airports and hospitals. Ampex is betting these locations will be an asset again as the economy recovers.

“The United States is reopening and our markets are coming back to life,” Ericka Garza, a former Pizza Hut executive who will be president of Au Bon Pain, said in a statement. “As we open our cafes, the reputation of the Au Bon Pain brand, its loyal subscribers, solid real estate and menu position the brand favorably for success. “

Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

The agreement ends another chapter in the long and complex history between Au Bon Pain and Panera.

The two bakery chains draw their legacies from a store opened by Boston businessman Ron Shaich on Winter Street in downtown Boston in 1980. With a series of acquisitions and expansions, Au Bon Pain has grown into a large chain.

In 1993 the company acquired the St. Louis Bread Company and eventually took the national concept under the brand name Panera. As the company reoriented itself, it transformed Au Bon Pain into a private equity firm.

Then, in 2017, Panera was bought out for $ 7.8 billion by JAB, the European company that owns Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Keurig Green Mountain and Krispy Kreme Donuts. A few months later, JAB also took over Au Bon Pain. But gradually, the chain was reduced, some Au Bon Pain locations being converted to Panera and others closing.

Last year, the company sold one of its major real estate assets in Boston: the former bakery and head office of Au Bon Pain in the Raymond L. Flynn Marine Industrial Park in the harbor. Development firm Marcus Partners paid $ 25 million for the site, where it is now seeking city approval to construct an eight-story building for Ginkgo Bioworks, a fast-growing life sciences company.

Andy Rosen can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @andyrosen.

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