The Original Name Of Panera Bread

You'd be hard-pressed to find a fast food consumer in America without at least a passing familiarity with Panera Bread. With over 2,100 locations in the U.S. and Canada, Panera was the twenty-third largest fast food chain in the U.S. in 2021, according to QSR Magazine. But, while virtually everyone recognizes its iconic green and white logo of a woman holding bread, seen in so many strip malls and airports around the country, and can associate it with fresh baked goods and sourdough bread bowls, there is one place where the name may be less familiar: St. Louis, where the company was founded.

As Panera explains on its website, the company came to fruition in 1987 as St. Louis Bread Company where it became a popular local chain, until it was purchased in 1993 by parent company Au Bon Pain (per NBC News). In order to make the brand more marketable to a national audience, Au Bon Pain came up with the name "Panera," which means "bread basket" in Latin, and paired it with the brand's existing logo when it began expanding the chain nationally. The brand did not want to lose business amongst its original fans, so it retained the "St. Louis Bread Co." name at the existing Missouri stores.

A local tradition

This naming tradition remains even as the company has exploded into an enormous franchise, with the brand retaining a separate, unique Facebook page for the "St. Louis Bread Co." brand and unique packaging for its products. In fact, the separation is so complete that one St. Louis-based writer even explained in So Yummy that she was legitimately confused when she moved to Chicago for college and discovered that "Bread Co." did not exist and had not been heard of by her Windy City-based classmates, but another bakery called "Panera" had the same logo and menu. That is until recently. This past September, several reports noted that Bread Co. stores in the St. Louis metro area were undergoing renovations which included changing the store's branding and signage to the more nationally recognized Panera name, according to Spectrum Local News.

Many residents in St. Louis' surrounding counties have been upset to see the stores change the iconic, local name. However, the brand assured residents that the area will not be seeing a total overhaul. Stores in St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis proper will retain the original Bread Co. name while other stores in surrounding communities may see the update. As of November 2022, there are still 67 Missouri locations listed on Panera's website sporting the brand's original Show-Me State moniker.