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Inside the life of a St. Louis Bread Company baker

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KIRKWOOD, MO (KTVI)-- The day before Thanksgiving is the busiest day of the year for a home grown favorite, The St. Louis Bread Company.  The first one opened in Kirkwood, and since 1987 the company has grown to 1700 café’s across the country, most are called Panera.

Every night almost all Panera cafes in 45 states bakers begin a baking battle around 1 a.m.  Chuck Perkins is a spokesman for Panera, “You’re busy the entire night everyone has a time line you have to stick to.”

Aida Miskic works at a south St. Louis Bread Co.  In 8 hours she’ll bake 60 different items including more than 30 kinds breads, 12 types of bagels and she does it all by herself.  That stuns customers.  One woman said, “That is amazing I am shocked I had no idea.”

Fortunately the dough is already prepared when she arrives. Still she has to decorate cookies, drizzle icing on the cinnamon rolls and score the bread among many other tasks. Before she knows it her shift is over. Aida Miskic said, “It goes by pretty fast just because you have so much to do, and everything is time managed so you have to stay up on everything when she done she’s prepared some 1500 items.”

The bakery is the backbone of Panera’s success.  Perkins said, “It’s the key it’s the key to this business it’s what bring our customers in every day.”

St. Louis University marketing expert Dr. Jim fisher said Panera is successful for many reasons including fresh baked items, food that seems healthy at an appealing price. Plus there’s the ambiance, Dr. Fisher said, “The atmosphere has fit the times as well.”  He said in the restaurant industry Panera is known as a third place.  It’s not your home, or your work, but it’s a third place to go to meet with fellow workers or gather with friends.

Every year bakers will use 150 million pounds of flour preparing millions of delicacies.  Miskic said, “Once one thing gets done another thing goes in the oven, and it flies by.”

At the end of the day they don’ throw away the left overs. Through their dough nation program Panera gives away the baked goods to the poor. Last year that amounted to about $100,000,000 worth of product.

Five things you don’t know about the St. Louis Bread Company also known as Panera in the rest of the country!

  • What’s the toughest challenge for a baker to learn at Panera? Icing the cinnamon rolls.  It takes a special technique that has to be learned.
  • Where does Panera mail all the dough? At 22 dough making facilities across the country.
  • How much worth of baked goods did Panera donate to the poor in the St. Louis area? $8 million worth of baked goods.
  • What can you purchases at a New York Panera that you cannot buy at one in St. Louis? A lobster roll.
  • What’s popular in St. Louis that is not as loved in the rest of the nation? Gooey butter cake.
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