Panera Bread Adds Industry Veterans Karen Kelley as SVP, Chief Restaurant Operations Officer and Anita Vanderveer as SVP, Chief People Officer

Hires Support Company’s Focus on Guest Experience and Talent

ST. LOUIS, Jan. 15, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Panera Bread announced today that Karen Kelley and Anita Vanderveer have recently joined the company’s senior management team as SVP, Chief Restaurant Operations Officer, and SVP, Chief People Officer, respectively. Kelley will lead operations across all bakery-cafes and Vanderveer will lead all Human Resources initiatives. Both executives will report directly to Blaine Hurst, President and CEO.

“I am thrilled to welcome Karen and Anita to Team Panera. Their experience and leadership in the restaurant industry is truly unparalleled,” said Hurst.  “I’m looking forward to working alongside them to strengthen and grow both the guest experience and the associate experience.”

As a well-known leader in the restaurant category, Kelley brings more than 30 years of experience to Panera. She’s a world-class, innovative operations leader who has built her career by focusing on harnessing people’s abilities to grow and deliver phenomenal results. Most recently, Kelley served as the president of Tatte Bakery & Cafe and prior to that was the President and COO of Sweetgreen. She started her career pursuing her bachelor’s while working in Taco Bell in college and holds a bachelor’s degree from University of Colorado Boulder in political science and government.

“The opportunity to help shape and deliver the Panera experience is one that doesn’t come around very often,” Kelley said.  “I’m excited to join Panera and look forward to building on the incredible accomplishments of the team.”

Vanderveer is a people focused, forward-thinking, innovative leader who brings extensive human resources experience to Panera. Most recently, Anita served as senior vice president of people for the national headquarters of SONIC®, America’s Drive-In®. Vanderveer began her career with Pizza Hut/Yum! Brands more than 25 years ago in restaurant operations and has served in a variety of human resources executive positions. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Mountain State University in organizational leadership and a master’s degree in education, human resource development from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime. I’ve always admired Panera and I’m thrilled to lead the people organization and our world class associate experience initiatives,” Vanderveer said.

About Panera Bread 
Thirty years ago, at a time when quick service meant low quality, Panera set out to challenge this expectation. We believed that food that was good and that you could feel good about, served in a warm and welcoming environment by people who cared, could bring out the best in all of us. To us, that is food as it should be and that is why we exist.

So we began with a simple commitment: to bake bread fresh every day in our bakery-cafes. No short cuts, just bakers with simple ingredients and hot ovens. Each night, any unsold bread and baked goods were shared with neighbors in need.

These traditions carry on today, as we have continued to find ways to be an ally for wellness to our guests. That means crafting a menu of soups, salads and sandwiches that we are proud to feed our families. Like poultry and pork raised without antibiotics on our salads and sandwiches. A commitment to transparency and options that empower our guests to eat the way they want. Seasonal flavors and whole grains. And a commitment to removing or not using artificial additives (preservatives, sweeteners, flavors, and colors from artificial sources) in the food in our bakery-cafes. Why? Because we think that simpler is better and we believe in serving food as it should be. Because when you don’t have to compromise to eat well, all that is left is the joy of eating.

We’re also focused on improving quality and convenience. With investments in technology and operations, we now offer new ways to enjoy your Panera favorites – like mobile ordering and Rapid Pick-Up® for to-go orders and delivery – all designed to make things easier for our guests. As a result, Panera has been one of the most successful restaurant companies in history. What started as one 400-square-foot cookie store in Boston has grown into a company with more than 2,300 units, nearly $6 billion in system-wide sales, and over 100,000 associates. In more than 25 years as a publicly traded company, Panera has created significant shareholder value. In late 2017, Panera acquired Au Bon Pain Holding Co. Inc., parent company of the 304-unit Au Bon Pain bakery-café chain. The acquisition reunites Panera and Au Bon Pain, both of which were founded by Ron Shaich, and will intensify Panera’s growth in new real estate channels, including hospitals, universities and transportation centers.

As of December 28, 2018 there were 2,114 bakery-cafes in 48 states and in Ontario, Canada, operating under the Panera Bread® or Saint Louis Bread Co. ® names.  For more information, visit or find us on Twitter (@panerabread), Facebook ( or Instagram (@panerabread).

Media Contact:
Jessica Hesselschwerdt