Panera Bread expanding in Canada
By Bakers Journal
By Bakers Journal
January 26, 2012, Toronto – Panera Bread opened its fourth
Canadian location on Tuesday in downtown Toronto, marking the beginning of a
rapid expansion plan for the American bakery café chain.
In honour of the occasion, Panera hosted a group of food
writers at George Brown College for a recipe demo with renowned baker Tom
Gumpel is vice president of bakery
development for Panera Bread. He is a
certified master baker and previously served as associate dean for curriculum
and instruction for baking and pastry arts at The Culinary Institute of America
1999, Gumpel received international acclaim when he served as captain of the
U.S. Baking Team that captured the grand prize at the prestigious Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie (World
Cup of Baking). His success in the competition was
featured in People, USA Today, The New
York Times and on ABC's World News
Tonight. He also was a member of the 1992
Culinary Olympic team that won a bronze medal at the International Culinary
Olympics in Frankfurt, Germany.
Panera Bread has just over 1500 U.S. locations baking up
about 150 million pounds of wheat flour a year. The new Toronto location near
Yonge and Dundas Square is amongst the nicest they’ve built, Gumpel remarked.
Gumpel prepared an Asiago Strata (a decadent savoury bread
pudding) and an Autumn Harvest Panzanella (roasted and toasted bread salad, pictured above) for
the group. He noted that while we are in an era of more positive bread
messaging after bread was pummeled by the Atkins craze, it’s still important in
driving business to give customers ideas for how to use bread in their life. He
sees that showing people how to use bread as part of an entrée is sparking
interest these days.
“Bread is an important part of a healthy diet and it should
be addressed that way,” he says.
Comfort foods are still the top selling mainstays for the
chain, including items like their broccoli cheddar soup, Caesar salad and
signature sandwiches, says Brandi Gangel, senior marketing manager for Panera
LLC. So far, their Canadian customers are sticking with the known signature
items, but she anticipates that will evolve to the more adventurous menu items,
as it has in America, when people become more familiar with the chain.
Panera has a primary focus on fresh, including dough and
bread that is made and baked fresh daily. Dough is given a 40 to 45 hour
fermentation to develop. They grow their own lettuce and ripen their own
tomatoes and avocados for the best control of the distribution and freshness
throughout their supply chain. In Canada, Gangel says they are sourcing half
their ingredients locally and half using their existing distribution channels
for optimal freshness. Gumpel’s leadership bubbles with his passion and
reverence for bread, which he says “tells you
when it’s ready at every stage.”