Au Bon Pain Has Big Plans To Revamp Its Cafes

Au Bon Pain is in for a major overhaul following its 2021 acquisition by Ampex Brands. The cafe chain, which has long been a staple of college campuses and transit hubs alike, is known for its freshly baked pastries and breakfast sandwiches. While the bakery has struggled in recent years, according to CNN, the company's new owner hopes to turn the chain around one renovation at a time.

Au Bon Pain (which translates to 'from good bread') was first launched by businessman Louis Kane in 1978, offering croissants, bread, and pastries made in specialty French baking ovens (via Au Bon Pain). As of July 2021, per Baking Business, the Boston-based chain has expanded to 171 locations in the U.S., Thailand, and India — down from a former peak of around 250. In June of this year, the company opened its first new location in recent memory after shuddering dozens of locations prior to and throughout the pandemic, marking an optimistic moment for the bread-centric business (via Restaurant Business).

A major franchisee with over 400 locations of various franchises in its portfolio, Ampex shared lofty ideas for upgrading existing Au Bon Pain locations at the time of the acquisition in addition to expansion goals. Now, Ampex is making good on those plans by launching a major retooling of the longstanding bakery chain.

The redesign will include convenient grab-and-go kiosks

In a press release, the chain unveiled plans to revitalize the Au Bon Pain brand by renovating and "enhancing the look" of existing cafes. This plan includes introducing modern conveniences that will, in the words of Ampex CEO Tabbassum Mumtaz, "lead the bakery-cafe segment into the future."

To bring this ambitious plan to fruition, the company has enlisted the help of Rubber & Road, a retail design firm, to redesign both the exteriors and interiors of Au Bon Pain locations. "Our new cafes give on-the-go guests what they crave ... while offering a lovely space for guests that want to stay for a bit," said Au Bon Pain President Ericka Garza, who took the helm last year (via Hospitality Tech).

The French cafe-inspired chain will also implement grab-and-go kiosks, self-serve bakery stations, and new ordering stations aimed at providing more convenient and speedy options for commuters, students, and workers.

Ampex, which plans to open six additional franchise locations and five corporate-owned locations by the end of 2022, hopes that its efforts to modernize the perhaps dated chain will help it meet customers where they are without abandoning its ethos. As for Au Bon Pain devotees, there's no need to worry about major changes to the menu — the chain will continue to serve the same French pastries, breakfast sandwiches, and savory lunch options its been offering for the last 40 years.