9 Things You Didn't Know About The Panera Bread Chain (Slideshow)

Panera has one of the more interesting corporate histories of any company out there, but it's a little complicated. In 1993, Au Bon Pain (which was founded in 1981 by Ron Shaich) purchased The St. Louis Bread Company, which ran 20 bakery-cafes in the St. Louis area. These shops were so successful that in 1999 Shaich decided to do something drastic: he sold off Au Bon Pain and devoted all his resources to The St. Louis Bread Company, which he renamed Panera Bread. He remains CEO of the company to this day. So yes, Panera was so successful in its early days that its parent company sold itself off to devote all their resources towards it.  

In St. Louis it’s Still Called The St. Louis Bread Company

Because why mess with a successful formula?

You’re Going to Wish You Invested in It

Panera is traded publically on NASDAQ, and on the day it went public, June 10, 1991, shares topped out at $13.25, according to Yahoo! Finance. The price of that single share on Feb. 18? $179.37 at its peak. Sigh.

They Own Paradise Bakery & Café

A majority stake of the Phoenix-based chain with more than 70 locations in the West and Southwest was purchased by Panera in 2009.

There Are 4 States with No Panera

Oh, how sad it must be to live a Panera-free existence in Utah, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

Fresh Dough is Delivered Every Day

There are 20 bakeries throughout the country that supply fresh dough to each location every morning.

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.

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.

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.