|Brandon Rolfe, Panera's new manager|
The store is being managed by Brandon Rolfe, an Idaho Falls area native who has managed the IHOP across the road for the past six years.
Rolfe said he knew nothing about St. Louis-based Panera Bread until he heard they were building here, in the old CD World building. Some online investigation prompted him to apply. “It’s been a great company to work for so far,” he said.
The new restaurant will employ roughly 70 people. Regular hours will be 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The company filed paperwork with the city of Idaho Falls in July 2015. This will be the fourth location in Idaho — others are in Boise, Nampa and Chubbuck, and two more are planned, in Twin Falls and Hayden.
“We’ve had great success in Chubbuck and we expect to do as well here,” Rolfe said. “The interest has been unbelievable.”
All the Panera stores in Idaho are company-owned. Worldwide, the split between franchise and company operations is roughly 50-50, a company spokeswoman said. With franchising, the development strategy calls for franchisees to open typically 15 bakery-cafes over a period of 6 years. They must have a proven track record as restaurant operators, net worth of $7.5 million and liquid assets of $3 million.
Panera Bread began on the East Coast in 1981 as Au Bon Pain Co. In 1993, Au Bon Pain purchased Saint Louis Bread Company, a chain of 20 bakery-cafes located in the St. Louis area. In 1999, all of Au Bon Pain's business units were sold except for Panera Bread, and the company was renamed Panera Bread.
In 2007, Panera Bread purchased a majority stake in Paradise Bakery & Café, a Phoenix-based company with more than 70 locations in 10 states, mainly in the west and southwest). The company purchased the balance of Paradise in June 2009. Since then, it has reach a market capitalization of $4.5 billion.
Panera Bread has been recognized as one of Business Week's "100 Hot Growth Companies" and the Wall Street Journal's Shareholder Scorecard in 2006 named it the top performer in the restaurant category for one-, five- and ten-year returns to shareholders.