Eating out was one of the first indulgences to go for many Americans forced to make cutbacks, and so, the restaurant industry suffered during the recession. Even inexpensive quick-service restaurants saw customer visits decrease throughout 2009 and into 2010, reports market research firm The NPD Group. But not at Panera Bread.
In the year following the fall 2008 stock market collapse, the share price of the St. Louis-based bakery-café chain was up 26 percent. Why? Because the company was growing while others were shrinking. In the last three years, Panera took advantage of low real-estate prices and construction costs to open 191 locations for a total of 1,421 company-owned, franchise-operated units in 40 states and in Ontario, Canada.