Panera Bread Opens First Santa Barbara Location with the Help of Elite Group of Athlete Partners

Panera Bread will open its first Santa Barbara bakery-cafe on Saturday, March 3, co-owned by former USC All-American and NFL football star, and current ESPN broadcaster Keyshawn Johnson.  The newest bakery-cafe is located in La Cumbre Plaza at 3851 State Street in Santa Barbara, CA. This is the seventh location to open in the Central Coast area.

With its identity rooted in handcrafted, freshly-baked, artisan bread, Panera Bread is committed to providing great tasting, quality food that people can trust.  Highlighted by antibiotic-free chicken, whole grain bread, select organic and all-natural ingredients and a menu with zero grams added trans-fat, Panera’s bakery-cafe selection offers flavorful, wholesome offerings.  The menu includes a variety of year-round favorites to complement seasonal items and breads baked fresh daily in each bakery-cafe by skilled bakers.  The new bakery-cafe offers a warm and welcoming environment including intimate seating areas, comfortable chairs, a community table and free WiFi Internet access.

“Panera Bread is a brand that fits so well with the California life style. Good food, great ingredients, exceptional customer service in a relaxed atmosphere. You can’t get more California than that,” said Keyshawn Johnson, Chief Executive Officer, First Picks Management LLC, a Panera Bread Area Developer and franchisee.  “I’m from here and this is my home….I feel like I know what people here are looking for on an everyday basis and Panera Bread meets that need.” Johnson loves what the brand represents, and it doesn’t hurt that it has been one of the top performing restaurant stocks and industry leaders for the past several years.

Johnson, who recruited fellow NFL teammates, an NBA player and some USC Alumni along the way to strengthen his bench and further propel the company’s growth, is especially proud to contribute to the economic vitality within the area. A new Panera Bread typically creates 50 to 75 new jobs within the communities they serve.

That aspect of the business is especially gratifying to First Picks Member Dennis Northcutt, former NFL wide receiver. “Investing in Panera Bread is not only a solid investment for me, it’s also something I can be proud of. We create new jobs and opportunities from the start of construction all the way to the opening of the doors. It’s great to see that energy along with the enthusiasm of so many young people who are working in a cafe that I helped to develop.”

Other First Picks investors include: Terence Newman, Warrick Dunn, Eric Allen, Reggie Bush, Anthony Henry, Keith Rivers, Corey Ivy, and Joe Smith.  First Picks management team is Clarence Mah, Chief Financial Officer, Glenn Mah, Chief Operations Officer and Ingrid Roberts, Managing Director. The group currently owns franchise rights for the Central Coast and Metro Los Angeles.

Panera Bread Santa Barbara is committed to serving the community through its participation in two charitable programs.  Through the Day End Dough-Nation™ program, unsold bakery products are donated to the Food Bank of Santa Barbara.  Additionally it will support the Community Breadbox™ program which ensures that donations made at Panera Bread support the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Tri-Counties, which First Picks matches by 50 percent.

For its VIP invitation-only opening party on March 2, the bakery-cafe will hold a silent auction to benefit the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation (DSLRF), formerly the Santa Barbara Breast Cancer Institute.  DSLRF’s mission is to eradicate breast cancer and improve the quality of women’s health through innovative research, education, and advocacy.  Through its Army of Women Program, the Foundation has over 360,000 volunteers nationwide who are challenging and shifting the breast cancer research community to focus finding the causes of breast cancer and the ways to prevent it, with the ultimate goal of eradicating the disease within our lifetime.  With its roots firmly tied to the Santa Barbara community, the Foundation has become nationally recognized as an arbiter of innovation, education and excellence within the field of breast cancer research.

“This past year we were Panera’s Pink Ribbon Bagel partner, its month long program in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” said Dr. Susan Love, president of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation.  “The support we have received from Panera Bread has been invaluable in helping raise money for our cause and we are pleased they selected us to be the beneficiary of cookie sales for its first week of opening.”

In partnership with 805 Living and Bridlewood Estate Winery, the grand opening event will feature selections of the bakery-cafe menu paired with Bridlewood wine. Johnson and a number of his partners will be in attendance for the opening celebration (by invitation only).  They are also available for interviews. The bakery-cafe will open at 6 a.m. on Saturday, March 3, and regular hours are Monday-Saturday 6 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Sunday 7 a.m.-9 p.m.