Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Panera keeps a cooler head

Panera Bread Co. is betting it can make more lettuce by boosting the quality of the garden variety. 

 The fast-casual chain has adopted “much tighter quality and much tighter temperature controls over our lettuce, all the way from the field through distribution to the bakery-café,” CEO Ron Shaich explained to investors during the franchisor’s quarterly conference call today. “Our lettuce will be far superior to anything you’ll find in the marketplace.”

Tighter management of the supply chain is a common objective of restaurant chains these days, though usually with the intent of squeezing out cost or better protecting the food from contamination or spoilage.  Shaich did not mention either of those advantages.

The fresher lettuce, he said, will help Panera offer $12-caliber salads for $8. Included will be two new ones: a chopped Cobb, and a barbecue chicken chopped salad. 

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