How Panera Bread Navigated Covid, Labor Market, Inflation, and More


We all know that we are behind the Paris agreement goals. We’re running out of time and that’s a huge challenge. Therefore, we believe that it would be wrong for a company like ours not to take the lead in this matter.

Have you seen the effects of climate change on business?

This is clearly a headwind and a risk. It’s something we watch very closely on the supply chain side because we have very high quality materials. So I think the impact of climate change on crops and harvests is definitely a threat around the corner. It will unfold in ways no one could have imagined.

How does the company adapt to the tight labor market?

The battle over talent will be a major headwind and a challenge for the industry. However, I think there is a structural element going forward, especially in the restaurant space. Hiring high-quality leaders into the restaurant business will become increasingly difficult, given the other options people are looking at, such as the gig economy or being an entrepreneur. People reevaluate and ask, “How do I want to spend my life and how do I want to look?” they ask.

We have invested heavily in talent development and training, as well as retention and recognition. But the bigger challenge in the long run is how to attract more people to the restaurant business? And then, how did Panera become the #1 employer of choice?

Have supply chain disruptions impacted the business?

There is definitely a big hitch on the supply side. There are no questions about it. And that leads to inflation and everything else. We have a large number of strategic suppliers working for us, and thanks to the long-term nature of our contracts, we have been able to manage supply chain shortages during the pandemic remarkably well. very, very irregular. Also, our supply needs to be entirely within the US, so there is less volatility in terms of global outages. So I’m pretty sure we’ll see some easing in the inflation component once the supply chain returns to normal.

What about just salaries? Some of the starting salaries for your entry-level employees are still close to minimum wage.

Our philosophy for our front-line employees is that we want to outdo the local competition. Therefore, regardless of the local competitive environment, we want to be better than what is out there and compete on that basis. But we will be differentiated by our culture, growth opportunities and education. Because it is not limited to a financial transaction. More than that. Things like how you were treated, how you were respected, how you grew up, what the brand stands for, the influence agenda. People want to work for companies that have meaning and have meaning.


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