How Panera Bread Kept Rising Through the Recession

Since the end of 2007, about the time the U.S. recession began, Panera Bread has boosted revenue 24 percent and added 191 café-bakeries to its 1,421-unit chain—all while increasing its workforce by 20 percent with the hiring of 4,661 extra workers.

The U.S. restaurant industry, meanwhile, saw same-store sales drop 2 percent last year, including a 4.7 percent decline at casual restaurants, according to a Restaurant Research analysis of chains with more than $1 billion in sales. Since the start of 2008, the Standard & Poor’s Midcap Restaurants index is up 4 percent, while shares of Panera, which is based in Richmond Heights, Mo. near St. Louis, are up 161 percent, trading less than a dollar below their Oct. 22 record of 94.40.

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