Two major bakery-café chains are merging, as Panera Bread has agreed to buy Au Bon Pain and its 304 units worldwide in an announcement made November 8.

The Boston-based Au Bon Pain has ties to Panera Bread, as Panera founder, Chairman, and CEO Ron Schaich created Au Bon Pain in 1981. The company went public in 1991, and then acquired Saint Louis Bread Company in 1993, which then became Panera Bread. At that point, Shaich sold all of the Au Bon Pain divisions to focus on growing the Panera brand.

“With the acquisition we are announcing today, we are bringing Au Bon Pain and Panera together again. This acquisition offers the strategic opportunity for us to grow in several new real estate channels, including hospitals, universities, transportation centers and urban locations, among others,” Schaich says.

Effective January 1, 2018, Ron Schaich will step down as Panera CEO to better allocate his time between Panera, its parent company JAB Holdings, and personal interests. He will remain as Chairman. Panera president Blaine Hurst will take over as CEO in January.

Au Bon Pain will now fall under the umbrella of Panera Bread's parent company, JAB Holding, which purchased Panera in July. JAB Holding's growing list of bakery-café investments includes Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Bruegger’s Bagels, Peet’s Coffee, Einstein Bros. Bagels, and Caribou Coffee.