7-Eleven and Yum Brands franchisee buys bakery-cafe chain Au Bon Pain

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The entrance to Au Bon Pain at the MBK Center.
Jeff Greenberg | Universal Images Group | Getty Images

The franchisee has now become the franchisor.

Ampex Brands, which operates more than 400 Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell, Long John Silver's and 7-Eleven locations in the U.S., announced Wednesday that it bought the bakery-cafe chain Au Bon Pain.

“Our [quick-service restaurant] brands performed extraordinarily well throughout the pandemic as guests moved to drive-thru,” Ampex CEO Tabbassum Mumtaz said in a statement. “That performance allowed us to diversify and jump on a great opportunity to reposition a legacy brand. The bakery café category will rebound, and Au Bon Pain is well-positioned to grow.”

The acquisition was finalized on Tuesday. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Ampex gains control of Au Bon Pain's 171 locations, which will increase the company's revenue by about 10% annually. It has also received franchising rights for an additional 131 restaurants.

As Ampex looks to revive Au Bon Pain's business and expand its footprint, it has hired a number of experienced restaurant executives to lead the transformation. Ericka Garza, the new brand president, most recently served as senior franchise growth leader for Yum Brands' Pizza Hut.

Ampex bought the bakery-cafe chain from ABP Corp., which is a subsidiary of Panera Bread. The sandwich chain bought Au Bon Pain in 2017, shortly after JAB Holding took Panera private. The deal was a reunion for the two. Restaurant entrepreneur Ron Schaich merged his cookie store with Au Bon Pain in the 1980s and then bought the Saint Louis Bread Company — now known as Panera Bread — the following decade. He sold off Au Bon Pain shortly before the new millennium.

Under JAB's ownership, many Au Bon Pain locations were converted into Panera restaurants, shrinking its footprint from roughly 300 locations to 171.

JAB is spinning off other parts of its portfolio as well. Doughnut maker Krispy Kreme has filed to go public again, seeking to raise as much as $640 million through an initial public offering. JAB took the company private in 2016. New York Times' Dealbook recently reported that JAB completed an $800 million refinancing deal for Panera Bread recently, clearing the way for the sandwich chain to return to the public market.

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