Bakery cafés are going from strength to strength, despite the country's weak economy, with the top 25 bakery café chains' sales growing to more than $4.5 billion in 2008, a nearly 12 percent increase, according to the 2009 Technomic Top 25 Bakery Café Chains Restaurant Report.
Led by Panera Bread, Einstein Bros. Bagels and Au Bon Pain, units increased by nearly 7 percent to 3,108 locations. Paradise Bakery & Café posted the fastest sales growth at 30.7 percent, while Le Pain Quotidien boasted a store count increase of 29.6 percent. Trends fueling the chains' growth included:
- Social media — Using Facebook and Twitter to announce new offerings and promotions
- Breakfast — Expanded menu options at Atlanta Bread Co., Panera Bread, Corner Bakery Café
- Value menu selections — Einstein Bros. Bagels' Snack-Out menu, Au Bon Pain's PORTIONS menu, La Madeleine's Choose-Two Menu
- Nontraditional locations — Corner Bakery Café plans locations on college campuses, military bases and airports; Einstein Bros. Bagels moves into hotels and medical centers
“The consumer trade-down from full-service to limited-service formats that solidified through 2008 and into 2009 allowed fast-casual bakery cafés to truly shine,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president for foodservice industry consultant Technomic. “The appeal of moderately priced, high-quality menu offerings served in contemporary ambiance, as well as consumer perception of value for this format, has more than likely strengthened over the past year.”