I don't think I have ever written about this company; odd because it is a St. Louis company and has changed the way that Americans eat deli-like sandwiches. I have been going to St. Louis Bread Company for many years now, but I remember a time when they were not on every street corner, like a Starbucks. I remember a time when if you wanted a sandwich on some freshly made bread, you had to go someplace like Mama's Deli or Subway or Koppermann's. I don't dislike these large corporation deli or bakeries, but they do tend to put the smaller places out of business. While that is the idea of businesses, in general, to put the other ones out of business and take over, that idea is always seen as harsh when it is a Goliath against David.
Now, Panera Bread was officially born in 1981, as Au Bon Pain Co. It was a company on the East Coast, which owned and operated many bakery-cafe style restaurants. In 1993, they purchased a string of 20 bakery-cafe's throughout St. Louis, owned by a company called The St. Louis Bread Company. From 1993 to 1997, they completely restaged and reworked this company and the cafe's to become more efficient and the new company of Panera Bread was born. The owners basically discovered that they were making more money with Panera then with their other company and then in 1999, they sold off everything that was Au Bon Pain Co. Since that old company was sold, all the money was put into Panera and the stock has grown 13 times!
Now, in 2009, they purchased another bakery-cafe company in the West with over 70 locations. So, now Panera can spread over the US, easier. Now, as of this past September, there are 1,625 bakery-cafe's in 44 states and even some in Canada.
Also, that large building which used to be an Anheuser Busch Distribution headquarters, on Geyer Rd, first second building on your right as you exit off of 44E towards Watson, is the Panera HQ. Also alos, the St. Louis Bread Company bakery-cafe, located on Clayton Rd., across form the Esquire theatre, is the the "testing" facility. I used to go there when I went to Fontbonne. I was told that at that location, they would try things out there first, before moving those ideas or menu items all over to their other stores. This means that most of the time, you can go there and find things and try things before they get to everywhere else.
So, do I like the food at St. Louis Bread Company? Yes, the bread and everything is cooked properly. There is just one thing I wished from the company. I wish that their fresh baked breads would still smell like fresh baked breads. When I cook bread at home, it still has a certain 'smell' to it, of wheat, yeast and great other fresh bread things. The breads at Panera are good, but I have yet to have experienced that fresh bread smell or sensation at any Panera or St. Louis Bread Company location, since I can remember. Still though, for good food, it is an easy place to get some baked goods and use them to distract your kids enough so you can enjoy some simple and healthy food items.