Innovating Philanthropy:Panera’s Social Experiment
Panera Bread visionary Ron Shaich has spent his career trying to change the way America eats by focusing on choice and an affordable, high quality experience. Since its founding, Panera has grown to over 1,600 bakery-cafes around the country, including its new, innovative Panera Cares Community Cafes – non-profit cafes to address food insecurity.
Ron’s vision was to launch a “pay-what-you-can” cafe and see whether the community would support it. If the experiment succeeded, the Panera Bread Foundation would have a platform to leverage all of Panera’s expertise and resources to fight food insecurity at scale.
Ron will share his passion for expanding the Panera Cares Community Cafe concept to make a difference in the world and discuss how Panera is engaging offline communities, as well as social media and word-of-mouth, to fight food insecurity and ignite a social movement. As the concept continues to prove its value, it might be the best choice he’s ever made.
Thirty years ago, Ron Shaich set out to change the world by changing the way America eats. By founding not one, but two successful restaurant concepts (Au Bon Pain and Panera Bread), Shaich shook up the industry by offering an antithesis to fast food – hand made, artisan food served in warm and welcoming environments by people you can trust. Today, Panera Bread serves over 7 million people each week, employs over 70,000 people and is a leader in the restaurant space.
Today, Shaich directs a range of long term innovation and strategic initiatives for Panera Bread as the company’s Chairman and co-CEO. Having made his name as an entrepreneur who grew his business into a national chain of nearly 1,700 bakery cafes in 40 states and Canada with a $4.7 billion market cap, Shaich remains focused on building a company of quality over the long term.
In his many years as CEO, Shaich received widespread recognition for his leadership. Under Shaich's direction, Panera was the singularly best performing restaurant stock when measured over his last decade as CEO and the second best performing consumer stock on the S&P consumer index when measured over that same decade.
Shaich was awarded the 2011 MUFSO Pioneer Award for being one of the most significant contributors in the history of the food service industry. Past winners have included Colonel Harland Sanders, Ray Kroc, Norman Brinker and J. Willard Marriott, Sr. In 2005, he was awarded IFMA’s Gold Plate Award for being the outstanding leader in the food service industry. As well, he has twice received the Nation’s Restaurant News Golden Chain Award which is given to figures who exemplify success and leadership in the food service industry.
Shaich has also been a national finalist for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year. The Company and Shaich’s innovative management style have been featured in Fortune, Forbes, Inc., Fast Company, The Economist, TIME, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, all three network evening news programs (NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, ABC World News Tonight) and several books. As well, Shaich frequently represents Panera Bread on CNBC, Bloomberg, CNN and Fox News.
Shaich also serves as President of the Panera Bread Foundation and recently spearheaded the Panera Cares initiative, through which the Foundation created nonprofit community cafes aimed at addressing issues related to food insecurity. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Lown Cardiovascular Research Foundation and on the Board of the Rashi School. Shaich formerly served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Clark University. He is also a co-founder of No Labels, a political organization aimed at addressing the politics of problem solving.
Shaich received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Clark University in 1976 and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Harvard Business School in 1978. He resides in Brookline, MA with his wife, Nancy, and children, Michael and Emma.