17 Apr 2017
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Panera-bred Leaders Have Risen Throughout the Restaurant Industry

Re: John Maguire (AMP 180); Rick Vanzura (MBA 1990)

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Photo by Mark Ostow

As Ron Shaich (MBA 1978) grew Au Bon Pain and then the Panera Bread Company into the nation’s largest “fast casual” chain, he was also shaping a team of highly skilled restaurant executives. A recent article in the Boston Globe traces the lineage of these Shaich-trained managers, who have gone on to lead the operations of such popular chains as Friendly’s Ice Cream, Johnny Rockets, Pizzeria Uno, Smashburger, Wahlburgers (led by CEO Cedric Vanzura, MBA 1990), Pieology, and Upper Crust.

Panera was sold earlier this month to Europe’s JAB Holding Company for an unsolicited $7.5 billion buyout offer. Shaich will remain as CEO of the operation.

“Most people [here], they’ve been pushed to think in ways they’ve never been pushed to think about before,” Shaich told the Globe. Though those lessons add up to good management techniques, at their core are several key values, including maintaining quality across the country and across many independent franchisees, and being willing to respond to changing consumer tastes.

One Shaich-schooled leader, John Maguire (AMP 180, 2011), left Panera in 2012 to take on the challenge of solidifying the Friendly’s Ice Cream franchise. He was rewarded for his success last year, when Friendly’s owner Sun Capital Partners put him in charge of the Johnny Rockets retro burger-and-shakes chain.

Maguire said Shaich kept the Panera team laser-focused on three goals: hiring great people, offering menu items that consumers crave, and creating an environment where people want to spend some time.

“Having worked for him for about 18 of the 20 years [at Panera],” Maguire said, “I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor.”

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Class of MBA 1978, Section H
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