Carrie Rengers

Original Bread buyer has upgrades, expansion plans for Panera Bread

Panera Bread franchisee Greg Flynn isn’t moving to Wichita, but he says he wouldn’t mind.
Panera Bread franchisee Greg Flynn isn’t moving to Wichita, but he says he wouldn’t mind. Courtesy photo

What was a “bittersweet” sale for Panera Bread franchisee Randy Simon is another opportunity to grow for Greg Flynn, whose San Francisco-based Flynn Restaurant Group bills itself as the largest restaurant franchise operator nationally.

Last week, Simon and some partners in Original Bread – the first Panera franchisee in the country – sold their 34 cafes in Kansas and Missouri to Cleveland-based Pan American Group LLC, a Flynn company and the second-largest Panera franchisee nationally.

Greg Flynn calls the Original Bread properties “34 great cafes.”

“Many of the cafes are, you know, older, but they’re really great locations, and they have great staff.”

He says the company is in good shape.

“In fact, it’s in very good shape.”

Flynn says he has no big or fundamental changes planned. He says he isn’t going to close any of the sites but will “add for sure.”

“I can’t tell you specifically where,” he says. “It’ll take some time for us to identify locations. … It’s very opportunistic. You’ve got to sort of take the deals as you find them.”

Flynn says there will be new initiatives he’ll continue to roll out through Panera 2.0, a franchise-wide plan for more efficient ordering, catering and small-order delivery that Simon began implementing before he sold.

With the December death of his main partner, Howard Wilkins, Simon explained last week that “it was going to be a little tricky to be able to capitalize all those initiatives and fully implement them and really give them the attention that they needed.”

Flynn says his company can bring significant capital for upgrades.

What he won’t bring is any Applebee’s restaurants or Taco Bells – the other two chains that make up his company’s more than 850 total restaurants.

Flynn says there aren’t opportunities for him to bring those to the Wichita market since there are other Applebee’s and Taco Bell franchisees here.

Before his company’s Original Bread purchase, Flynn came to Wichita.

“It’s an extremely attractive city,” he says. “I found myself thinking, god, I could live here.”

No offense to Wichita, but, ah, really? Coming from someone who lives in San Francisco?

“I am being serious,” Flynn says.

He says Wichita’s great quality of life was immediately apparent.

Not that is he planning to move here, but Flynn adds that if you look at housing prices, moving is especially appealing.

“It seemed like a really good idea.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers