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5 Things You Didn't Know About the Panera Bread Chain

Not only is the 'bakery-café' America's favorite chain sandwich shop according to our recent poll, it's also raking in the cash.
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Panera Bread is one of the most popular, and fastest-growing chains in America today. Not only is the 'bakery-café' America's favorite chain sandwich shop according to our recent poll, it's also raking in the cash. But behind the fresh-baked bread and smiling service, there's an interesting history, and a lot of fascinating things happen behind the scenes to make your experience as hassle-free as possible.

Panera Bread had its beginnings in 1981, and a major expansion plan was implemented in 1999. By 2005, it was ranked 37th on BusinessWeek's list of 'Hot Growth Companies,' and in 2012; the most recent year that data is available, it raked in a whopping $2.13 billion in revenue, nearly $1 billion more than its revenue from 2008. That's pretty impressive for any company, let alone one in the competitive fast-casual food market.

So what's the reason for Panera's success? When you're on your lunch break and your only options are fast food and Panera, most people will choose Panera, because it's just as quick and easy as its burger chain competitors, it has a reputation for being healthy and wholesome, it's not too expensive, the stores are nicely designed and comfortable, and; not to sound like an advertisement, but it's simply a solid, satisfying place to grab a meal. And that's exactly what the owners are going for. The addition of fresh-baked bread is icing on the cake.

With around 1,800 locations in 45 states, Panera Bread seems to be unstoppable. But behind every transaction is a perfectly engineered customer experience intended to keep you coming back for more as often as possible. So read on to learn 9 fascinating facts about Panera Bread, from its unique origins to its brief reign as the wi-fi capital of the U.S.

There Are 5 States with No Panera
Oh, how sad it must be to live a Panera-free existence in Utah, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming. Photo Credit: © Flickr / Joe WinterClick Here to see More Things You Didn’t Know About the Panera Bread Chain
Fresh Dough is Delivered Every Day
There are 20 bakeries throughout the country that supply fresh dough to each location every morning. Photo Credit: © Flickr / Waqas Ahmed
They Donate Unsold Food
All the bread and baked goods that are left over at the end of the day is donated to local hunger relief agencies, as part of the company’s Day-End Dough-Nation initiative. In 2010, the Panera donated a whopping $100 million worth of unsold bread and baked goods. Photo Credit: © Flickr / Sarah GilbertClick Here to see More Things You Didn’t Know About the Panera Bread Chain
They Were Once the Largest Provider of Free Wi-Fi in the U.S.
In 2006 and 2007, the fact that every Panera bread offered free wi-fi was pretty revolutionary. Especially the fact that they provided more free wi-fi than every other company in the country. Photo Credit: © Flickr / beautifulcataya
Their ‘Hidden Menu’ Isn’t So Hidden
Did you know that Panera has a “secret” list of off-menu items? Most likely, because they’ve been pretty out in the open about it. Click Here to see Items on the Panera Secret MenuPhoto Credit: © Flickr / DougClick Here to see Even More Things You Didn’t Know About the Panera Bread Chain

-- Dan Myers, The Daily Meal

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