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The Panera Bread Co. based in St. Louis said this morning that same-store sales rose 3.1 percent in August. That's pretty good considering many casual restaurants are feeling pinched by slower consumer spending.
The Panera Bread in Irvine at Barranca Parkway and Culver Drive,
It reminded me of the conversation I had a few days ago with Ted Hoover, who owns the franchise rights to Panera in south Orange County. Hoover and his wife, Sheri, opened their first Panera at The Bluffs shopping center in Newport Coast in 2003. They opened their eighth restaurant at The District in Tustin this summer. Hoover told me he just signed two more leases but doesn't want the locations blasted over the internet just yet.
Moving into restaurants has been a good investment for the couple, formerly in real estate development. The Hoovers hired an operating partner with restaurant experience to run the restaurants day-to-day. The Hoovers also have small business experience, so they handle the back office.
"It's absolutely met our expectations," Ted said. "The concept is perfect for this demographic."
If you've never been to a Panera, it's worth trying. They specialize in fresh bread and their menu has healthy dishes with quality ingredients. They have a large salad selection and their soups and sandwiches are quite tasty. Plus, they offer free WiFi.
The Hoovers have the rights to open 12 locations in Orange County. With the two new leases, they have reached 10. If the right locations come along, they will consider more, Ted said.
"It's getting harder and harder to find good sites," he said.