ST. LOUIS — Just like provel cheese, toasted ravioli, thin-crust pizza and gooey butter cake, referring to Panera Bread cafés as "Bread Co." is a hill that many St. Louisans would die on. But those living outside city and county limits might soon be forced to change their ways.
Some café locations undergoing remodeling outside of the Lou may be making the branding switch from St. Louis Bread Company to Panera, according to a spokesperson with the Missouri-based company.
The bakery-café chain began in 1987 with a single bakery in St. Louis — the St. Louis Bread Company. After Au Bon Pain acquired the company in 1993, the Bread Company was renamed Panera, from the Latin word for "breadbasket," to help position it for national growth.
Even after expanding to nearly 2,200 locations across the U.S. and Canada, the same sourdough starter used almost four decades ago at the company's first bakery is still being used to create fresh bread daily as its stores.
In true St. Louis fashion, it's likely that many St. Louisans will continue to hold the Bread Co. name close to their hearts and insist on calling it that regardless of what the sign out front says.
But those living within St. Louis limits don't need to worry. All bakery-cafés currently in St. Louis City and St. Louis County will remain as St. Louis Bread Company locations.
Despite some changes, the chain reassured it's not losing touch with its roots.
"We are so proud of our hometown, where we started more than 30 years ago, and we remain committed to serving the STL community," a spokesperson for Panera said.