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14 Freshly Baked Facts About Panera Bread

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From small-time Missouri chain to almost 2000 bakery-cafes in 46 states, Panera bakes more loaves of fresh bread every day than any other fast casual restaurant in the country. Curl up with your soup in a bread bowl (we assume it’s broccoli cheddar) and enjoy the following facts about the not half-baked company.

1. IT WASN'T ALWAYS PANERA BREAD.

The founders of the company first started Au Bon Pain. Au Bon Pain then bought Saint Louis Bread Company (which was only about 20 stores at the time) with the intention of growing the concept outside the St. Louis area under the name Panera. Eventually, it grew too much and the owners sold their Au Bon Pain franchise to focus exclusively on growing Panera.

2. AND SOME LOCATIONS STILL AREN’T CALLED PANERA BREAD.

In the St. Louis area, where the company is headquartered, Panera retains its original name of Saint Louis Bread Company.

3. YOU MIGHT BE EATING AT A PANERA AND NOT REALIZE IT.

The company owns a chain of bakery-cafes in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Texas, and Illinois called Paradise Bakery. The menu of Paradise is almost the same as the standard Panera menu, but this “Giant Cookie” is definitely something we would like to have as an option when choosing from the Panera You Pick Two menu.

4. THE FOOD DEVELOPMENT STAFF TAKES A TWICE-YEARLY RETREAT TO THE ADIRONDACKS TO TRY OUT NEW DISHES.

Most of the items on the menu came from the company’s chefs and bakers trying to win their own Panera version of Top Chef. Staff meetings also start with the team members literally breaking bread together.

5. DURING THE COMPANY’S PERIOD OF RAPID EXPANSION, A NEW PANERA OPENED EVERY FIVE DAYS.

In the early 2000s, the company was on a roll. The combination of fresh food and an atmosphere that encouraged customers to linger after they were finished eating was a hit with consumers. In 2009, the company was expanding at a rate of 31.5 percent each year.

6. THE COMPANY REALLY LOVES BREAD.

With a company mission of “A loaf of bread in every arm,” it makes sense that the company trains all its bakers to make the best loaf of bread they can. Fresh dough is delivered daily to every franchise from 23 facilities across the country via 212 delivery trucks.

7. THE CUSTOMERS LOVE THE BREAD TOO.

Each year, Panera sells approximately 150 million loaves of bread and 240 million bagels. It takes 140 million pounds of flour to make all that dough each year.

8. BUT PANERA REALLY HATES ANTIBIOTICS.

According to John Taylor, a member of Panera’s food team, the company tasted 30 varieties of chicken before selecting an antibiotic-free variety to serve in its stores. This year, the company (along with Chipotle) was given an A ranking with regards to their policies of sourcing antibiotic-free ingredients.

9. IT WAS THE FIRST NATIONAL CHAIN TO POST CALORIE INFORMATION IN ITS STORES.

Health magazine named Panera the healthiest fast-food restaurant in the country in 2009. Proving it deserved such recognition, the company announced it would start including the calorie information of all menu items in its stores in 2010.

10. THE COMPANY WAS ONCE THE LARGEST PROVIDER OF FREE WI-FI IN THE COUNTRY.

Panera took a gamble that ended up paying off when it decided to not charge its customers for use of the Internet. Sales increased by 15 percent after the introduction, and in 2012, 2.7 million users connected to Panera Wi-Fi each month.

11. ALL OF THOSE LEFTOVER BAGELS AND BREAD LOAVES ARE GIVEN AWAY.

Panera franchises donate the baked goods that remain on their shelves at the end of day through a program they call Day-End Dough-Nation. The company estimated that the retail value of the amount of bread they gave away in 2013 was approximately $100 million.

12. SOME OF ITS CAFES DO NOT HAVE PRICES.

In 2010, Panera opened the first of its Panera Cares Community Cafes in Clayton, Mo. Unlike the other franchises, the cafe operates on a pay-what-you-can system. The menu items are listed with suggested donations, which the company estimates 60 percent of the customers pay. With some leaving more and some leaving less, the locations (there are now four) typical bring in 70-75 percent of what a cafe with strict prices would make.

13. AND SOME WILL ACCEPT PAYMENT THAT ISN'T MONEY.

As part of the Panera Cares guidelines, if a customer is able to pay the suggestion donation (retail price) for his or her meal, the customer is asked to do so. But if someone is unable to pay for a meal at the time, he or she can volunteer for an hour a week at the cafe to earn a voucher for a free meal.

14. PANERA WASN’T SCARED BY THE ATKINS DIET.

While Panera eventually added a semi-secret low carb menu, the company’s annual letter to stockholders from 2004, during the height of the Atkins craze, only exudes confidence. “Throughout the quick rise and ultimate decline in popularity that characterized the low-carb trend in 2004, Panera Bread remained true to our roots and our artisan bread foundation,” it stated. “A company with 'bread' in its name could have expected far worse from the Atkins effect.”

Images courtesy of Panera.

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The First-Ever Troop of Homeless Girl Scouts Just Crushed Their Cookie Sales Goal
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Selling 32,500 boxes of cookies in a single week would be noteworthy for any team of Girl Scouts, but it's an especially sweet achievement for Troop 6000: The New York City-based chapter is the first-ever Girl Scout troop composed entirely of children living in homeless shelters.

According to NBC News, this season marked the first time the troop took part in the organization's annual cookie sale tradition. In early April, they received exclusive permission to set up shop inside the Kellogg's Café in Union Square. They kicked off their inaugural stand sale aiming to sell at least 6000 boxes of cookies: At the end of six days, they had sold more than 32,500.

Some customers waited in line an hour to purchase boxes from the history-making young women. Others gave their money directly to the troop, collectively donating over $15,000 to fund trips and activities. After purchasing their cookies, customers could also buy special Girl Scout cookie-inspired menu items from the Kellogg's store, with all proceeds going to Troop 6000.

The troop formed in 2016 as a collaboration between the Girl Scouts of Greater New York, Mayor de Blasio, and the city Department of Homeless Services. Meetings are held in shelters across the city, and many of the troop leaders, often mothers of the scouts, are homeless women themselves. About 40 percent of New York's homeless population are children, and Troop 6000 had to expand last summer to accommodate a flood of new recruits. Today, there are about 300 girls enrolled in the program.

[h/t NBC News]

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Everything You Need to Know About Record Store Day
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The unlikely resurgence of vinyl as an alternative to digital music formats is made up of more than just a small subculture of purists. Today, more than 1400 independent record stores deal in both vintage and current releases. Those store owners and community supporters created Record Store Day in 2007 as a way of celebrating the grassroots movement that’s allowed a once-dying medium to thrive.

To commemorate this year’s Record Store Day on Saturday, April 21, a number of stores (a searchable list can be found here) will be offering promotional items, live music, signings, and more. While events vary widely by store, a number of artists will be issuing exclusive LPs that will be distributed around the country.

For Grateful Dead fans, a live recording of a February 27, 1969 show at Fillmore West in San Francisco will be released and limited to 6700 copies; Arcade Fire’s 2003 EP album will see a vinyl release for the first time, limited to 3000 copies; "Roxanne," the Police single celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, will see a 7-inch single release with the original jacket art.

The day also promises to be a big one for David Bowie fans. A special white vinyl version of 1977’s Bowie Now will be on shelves, along with Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78), a previously-unreleased, three-record set. Jimmy Page, Frank Zappa, Neil Young, and dozens of other artists will also be contributing releases.

No store is likely to carry everything you might want, so before making the stop, it might be best to call ahead and then plan on getting there early. If you’re one of the unlucky vinyl supporters without a brick and mortar store nearby, you can check out Discogs.com, which will be selling the special releases online.

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