Au Bon Pain serves baked goods such as bread, pastries, croissants, and bagels as well as tea, coffee and espresso beverages, breakfast foods such as egg sandwiches, and lunch items such as soup, salads, and sandwiches. The company also offers catering services.
Most of the company's locations are in Boston, Cleveland, New York City, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.Locations are either company-owned or franchised. Most of the stand-alone locations in the United States are company-owned, while international locations and locations in Macy's and Walmart are typically franchised.
Pavailler, a French manufacturer of baking equipment, established the company as a showcase for its ovens in 1976 at Faneuil Hall in Boston. The company's principals included Louis Rapuano, Pavailler Machinery, and two minor investors. Pavailler contributed baking machinery to the venture. Au Bon Pain sold croissants, pastries, and bread produced by French bakers. In 1977, it opened stores in Hackensack, New Jersey and New York City.
In 1978, Au Bon Pain was acquired by Louis I. Kane, a venture capitalist who liked the smell of the products, for $1.5 million. The business model was changed to sell baked goods instead of ovens. Francois Marin was hired to open and manage the first Au Bon Pain in Boston's Quincy Market.
By 1980, Au Bon Pain had over $1 million in sales, but was still losing money.
In 1981, the company was suffering from its debt and on the verge of bankruptcy, and a 60% interest in the company was acquired by Ronald M. Shaich and his father.
In 1993, the company acquired Saint Louis Bread Company, the predecessor of Panera Bread, for $23 million. The company also acquired the U.S. bakery locations of Warburtons, which were converted to Au Bon Pain locations.
In 1996, the company announced plans to upgrade the interior of its stores after reporting a loss.
In 1997, the company considered opening locations in Peru.
In June 2016, Morelli retired and Ray Blanchette was named President and CEO.
On November 8, 2017, Panera Bread announced the acquisition of Au Bon Pain, which had split off from Panera in 1999 after being created in 1981. Following the deal, Ron Shaich stepped down as the Au Bon Pain's chief executive, to be succeeded by Blaine Hurst, Panera's president.
In 2018, the company looked to close its 9 locations in Washington, D.C. or convert them to Panera Bread locations.
In December 2019, Au Bon Pain closed its last location in Cambridge, Massachusetts, ending over 35 years of doing business in their former flagship city.