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Panera Bread 3Q profit climbs on higher prices

Panera Bread Co. capitalized on consumers' appetites for low-cost meals in the third quarter, sending its profit and sales higher.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Panera Bread Co. capitalized on consumers' appetites for low-cost meals in the third quarter, sending its profit and sales higher.

The casual restaurant chain's meals, sandwiches and snacks have appealed to consumers during the recession, as people tighten their spending by trading down from more upscale restaurants to cheaper fare. The company also raised its retail prices during the quarter, which helped boost average check amounts.

Panera said after the market closed Tuesday that it earned $18.9 million, or 61 cents per share, for the three months ended Sept. 29, up 38 percent from $13.7 million, or 45 cents per share, a year ago.

Sales rose 6 percent to $335 million from $315.2 million on strong bakery-cafe sales and improved fresh dough sales to franchisees. The company also made more money from franchise royalties and fees.

The performance beat the 58 cents-per-share forecast of analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters. Analysts, whose estimates generally exclude one-time items, predicted revenue of $333.8 million.

Its shares rose $2.90, or 5.3 percent, to $58 in premarket trading Wednesday.

Panera said sales at company-owned bakery-cafes open at least a year rose 3.3 percent in the quarter on increased retail prices. Sales at franchise-run bakery-cafes open at least a year climbed 2.5 percent.

The company anticipates fiscal first-quarter earnings of 85 cents to 87 cents per share, with sales at company-owned bakery-cafes open at least a year up 5 percent to 6 percent on a calendar basis. It expects 2010 profit of $3.05 to $3.15 per share on a sales increase at company-run bakery cafes open at least a year of 3 percent to 5 percent.

Analysts forecast first-quarter earnings of 86 cents per share and a 2010 profit of $3.06 per share.

Panera and its franchisees opened 19 new bakery-cafes, for a total of 1,362 bakery-cafes at quarter's end.