In “Know What Matters,” Ron Shaich, the renowned entrepreneur and founder of Panera Bread, shares his insightful and thought-provoking ideas about the true meaning of success in both life and business.
Written in a conversational and engaging style, the book provides a roadmap for individuals and organisations to find purpose, make meaningful contributions, and prioritise what truly matters.”Know What Matters” is filled with relatable anecdotes and inspiring stories from Shaich’s entrepreneurial journey, including the challenges he faced in building Panera Bread into a successful and socially conscious business. He shares valuable lessons learned along the way, providing actionable strategies and practical advice for founders and CEOs on how to maximise business and personal success.
1. Prioritise Mission-Driven Purpose above Profits
Shaich emphasises the importance of aligning a company’s purpose with actions that ultimately benefit society. At Panera Bread, Shaich instilled a mission-driven purpose to provide high-quality food in a welcoming environment. This led to initiatives such as the “Pay-What-You-Can” program, where customers had an option to pay more or less based on their financial abilities. While the program aimed to address food insecurity, it also generated positive word-of-mouth and enhanced Panera Bread’s brand reputation, resulting in increased customer loyalty and store traffic. Gone are the days where focusing on profits was enough – instead Shaich recommends focusing on bigger mission driven goals – and the money will follow.
2. Fight the Short-Termism
Panera Bread’s success under Shaich’s leadership can be attributed to his long-term vision, urging CEOs and founders to invest in growth instead of pursuing short-term gains. In 2009, Shaich introduced Panera 2.0, a comprehensive technological overhaul of the entire restaurant experience. This initiative included digital ordering, rapid pickup, and delivery services. By investing in these advances, Panera Bread experienced substantial growth, with digital sales accounting for over 30% of its overall revenues by 2018. What may be perceived as a short term expense and distraction ended up being a long term investment and lever for financial success.
3. Shaping Industry Practices:
Ron Shaich was not content with merely growing Panera Bread; he wanted to shape the entire fast-food industry’s practices. Recognizing that McDonald’s held significant influence and reach, Shaich penned a letter to the CEO of McDonald’s at the time, proposing a collective effort to improve industry-wide labor practices. This bold move demonstrated his commitment to a broader purpose and the belief that even competitors could unite for social good. The lesson here is that leaders should not be afraid to challenge the status quo, transcend competition, and work towards shared goals.
4. Authenticity Vs. Auto-pilot:
In his book, Shaich reflects on a crucial lesson that arose from his relationship with Starbucks. Early on, Panera Bread attempted to mimic Starbucks’ model by introducing complicated espresso machines and expanding into new product lines without fully understanding their purpose. Recognizing his mistake, Shaich realised the importance of staying true to his brand’s authentic identity. Trying to ride the coattails of another company’s success without considering your own core principles can lead to diluted efforts and loss of focus. Shaich also stressed the need for CEOs and founders to foster a culture of constant growth and learning within their organisations – but while being authentic to their DNA. When Panera Bread experienced operational challenges, Shaich implemented an initiative called “Operation Excellence.” This program involved implementing a rigorous training system, enhancing cleanliness standards, and improving overall customer experience. By focusing on continuous improvement, Panera Bread saw substantial growth, achieving same-store sales growth rates of 7% in 2012 and 8% in 2013.
5. Embrace the Change and Disruption
Shaich encourages CEOs and founders to embrace disruptive ideas, challenging the status quo within their industries. As consumers increasingly sought healthier food options, Shaich recognized the need to adapt Panera Bread’s menu offerings. He initiated the “Food as It Should Be” campaign, committing to eliminate artificial additives, preservatives, and sweeteners from Panera’s menu. This innovation positioned Panera Bread as an industry leader in the healthier fast-casual segment, attracting health-conscious customers and contributing to significant sales growth. From 2012 to 2020, Panera Bread’s revenues doubled, reaching over $5 billion.Ron Shaich’s book “Know What Matters” imparts invaluable lessons for CEOs and founders aiming to build successful and impactful companies. By focusing on mission-driven purposes, investing in long-term growth, prioritising transparency, fostering a culture of continuous improvement, and embracing disruption, CEOs and founders can drive their organisations towards sustainable financial success while creating a positive societal impact, as exemplified by Ron Shaich’s remarkable journey at Panera Bread.
About Ron Shaich
Ron Shaich is a prominent American entrepreneur and businessman.His journey began in the early 1980s when he co-founded Au Bon Pain, a bakery-café chain that offered freshly baked goods and gourmet sandwiches. Under Shaich’s leadership as CEO, Au Bon Pain expanded rapidly, becoming a successful brand with a national presence. In 1999, Shaich made a bold move to acquire Panera Bread, a small competing bakery-café chain. With Shaich as CEO, Panera Bread surged in popularity and transformed into one of the leading fast-casual restaurant chains in the United States. Shaich emphasised a commitment to clean ingredients, artisan bread, and a warm, community-focused atmosphere. His efforts paid off, as Panera constantly outperformed its competitors, registering consistent growth. Additionally, he founded the Panera Bread Foundation to address hunger, opening several non-profit Panera Cares community cafés across the country.Shaich’s achievements earned him recognition as one of Businessweek’s “Best Entrepreneurs” in 2000, and he was inducted into the Hospitality Hall of Honor in 2016. In 2019, he stepped down as CEO of Panera Bread but remained involved as Chairman.Now Ron Shaich is known for investing in and advising various start-ups and working as an activist investor.
Summary of Panera Bread’s Corporate History and Key Milestones
Panera Bread, a leading fast-casual restaurant chain, has a rich corporate history marked by significant milestones. Let’s explore some of its key moments and achievements by year:
1981-1996: Founding Years and Early Expansion
- 1981: Ron Shaich and Louis Kane founded the Au Bon Pain Co. Inc., a bakery-café chain that would later serve as the foundation for Panera Bread.
- 1993: Au Bon Pain acquired Saint Louis Bread Company, a local St. Louis chain, which would later be rebranded as Panera Bread.
- 1996: Recognizing the potential of Panera Bread, the company sold Au Bon Pain to focus exclusively on expanding the Panera brand.
1997-2003: Rapid Growth and Financial Success
- 1997: Panera Bread becomes a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ stock exchange under the symbol PNRA.
- 2000: Panera Bread reaches 100 bakery-café locations across the United States and surpasses $200 million in systemwide sales.
- 2003: For the third consecutive year, Panera Bread is named the top-rated chain in the restaurant industry in a national customer satisfaction survey.
2004-2011: Building a Stronger Brand and Expansion
- 2005: Panera acquires Paradise Bakery & Café Inc., adding over 60 locations primarily in the western United States.
- 2007: Panera Bread introduces its innovative Panera 2.0 initiative, which includes rapid pickup and delivery services, online ordering, and a revamped loyalty program.
- 2011: Panera Bread reaches a significant milestone of operating 1,500 bakery-cafés.
2012-Present: Adaptation and Continued Growth
- 2014: The company rebrands itself as Panera Bread Company, reflecting its commitment to providing high-quality bread-based products.
- 2017: Panera Bread is acquired by JAB Holding Company, a global investment firm specialising in consumer brands, in a transaction valued at approximately $7.2 billion.
- 2020: Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Panera Bread accelerates its digital transformation efforts, expanding its delivery footprint and enhancing its mobile ordering capabilities.
- 2022: Panera Bread opens its first-ever ghost kitchen, a delivery-only concept, to cater to the evolving demands of off-premises dining.
Throughout its corporate history, Panera Bread has consistently emphasised its commitment to quality food, community engagement, and exceptional customer experience. Today, with over 2,000 bakery-cafés across North America, the company continues to evolve and innovate while staying true to its core values.