meet Ron

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on Shaich is the Managing Director and CEO of Act III Holdings, a $300 million fund that will invest in public and private restaurant and consumer companies that are driving long-term value creation and have the potential to significantly dominate their market niches. He is a frequent speaker on the dangers of short-termism and rampant investor activism and the quarter-to-quarter thinking it has inspired. “I believe a long-term perspective, a commitment to transformation and industry-specific experience remain the most important contributors to competitive advantage today. I want to help others realize that competitive advantage, so I’m putting my money where my mouth is.”

Ron Shaich is the founder and chairman of Panera Bread, a groundbreaking restaurant brand that today has more than 2,400 bakery-cafes, over 120,000 associates and nearly $6 billion in annual systemwide sales. Ron also served as Panera's CEO from 1984 to 2010 and again from March 2012 to January 2018. Ron is highly respected for his ability to recognize and capitalize on marketplace opportunities. In addition to founding Panera, which established the high-growth fast-casual restaurant segment, Ron earlier in his career founded and grew Au Bon Pain, establishing the bakery-cafe segment. With both brands he disrupted an existing industry paradigm and found new pathways to building companies of value and with values. The result: Panera was the best-performing restaurant stock of the past 20 years, generating annualized returns in excess of 25% over the past two decades and delivering a total shareholder return 44 times better than the S&P 500 from July 18, 1997 to July 18, 2017 (when Ron led a take-private transaction for Panera).

Panera's history is one of transformations and what Ron calls "smart, long-term bets." Decades ago, Ron recognized the potential of a bakery-cafe, versus simply a bakery, and this led to the original development and growth of Au Bon Pain. He then conceived in Panera a new way to eat based on real food, associates that cared and an environment that engaged people. That approach came to be known as "fast casual"--now a $40 billion "segment" of the restaurant industry. When it became clear that Panera had the potential to be a nationally dominant brand, Ron made the decision to sell all of APB's other businesses. Doing so allowed all financial and human resources to be focused on Panera to ensure it had the opportunity to fulfill its potential. During the booming dot.com years, Panera's growth remained disciplined, and when the Great Recession hit, Ron held true to his contrarian nature, investing in the guest experience as competitors were ripping costs from their P&Ls. This drove strong comps throughout the recession. At the same time, Ron expanded development and built some of the highest ROI cafes in the Panera system.

In his last six years as CEO, Ron again transformed Panera, ensuring it is a better competitive alternative with expanded runways for growth and once again changing the industry. Indeed, the themes Ron bet on--digital, clean, loyalty and omni-channel--are reshaping the restaurant landscape as others race to adopt them, and Panera is leading in all of them.


Ron has been recognized repeatedly for his visionary leadership. In 2018, he was named Restaurant Leader of the Year by Restaurant Business. In 2017, he received the Legend in Leadership Award from the Chief Executive Leadership Institute at the Yale School of Management. He was also named the second most influential leader in the restaurant industry by Nation's Restaurant News in its 2017 Power List. Earlier, he received the Nation’s Restaurant News 2011 Pioneer Award for being one of the most significant contributors to the history of the restaurant industry. Past winners have included Colonel Harland Sanders, Ray Kroc, Norman Brinker and J. Willard Marriott Sr. Ron was awarded IFMA’s Gold Plate Award for being the industry’s outstanding leader in 2005. And he twice received the Nation’s Restaurant News Golden Chain Award, recognizing industry leadership and success. In addition, Ron was named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the New England region in 1998, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the Midwest region in 2003, and a finalist for the Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur in 2003.

Known for his innovative management style and social consciousness, Ron has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, The Economist, TIME, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, TheStreet.com, Bloomberg News and on MSNBC, NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News and ABC World News Tonight and in several books. He is a LinkedIn Influencer and a frequent guest on CNBC.

Ron sits on the boards of Clark University, Cava, Clover Food Lab, Life Alive Organic Cafe, Tatte Bakery and Cafe and Open World. He formerly served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Clark University and on the boards of Whole Foods Market Inc., the Rashi School, the Lown Cardiovascular Foundation and the Alliance for Business Leadership. Ron is also a co-founder of No Labels, an organization that promotes bipartisan political problem solving and the development of a long-term strategic plan for the country.

Ron received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Clark University and a Master of Business Administration degree from Harvard Business School. He is also the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Clark University. He resides in Brookline, Massachusetts, with his wife, Nancy, and children, Michael and Emma.


September 2018







 
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