Know What Matters: Lessons from a Lifetime of Transformations

Harvard Business Review Oct. 2023. 256p. ISBN 9781647825591. $30. BUS
Shaich started his restaurant-industry career with a cookie shop in Boston, but he soon realized the need for something to attract morning commuters; that something was croissants and coffee. Shaich eventually left the cookie shop behind and became majority shareholder and CEO of café chain Au Bon Pain. When that business’s growth slowed, he bought the St. Louis Bread Company, which became the blueprint for Panera Bread and his introduction of fast-casual dining in the U.S. In this book that combines memoir with strategic-planning advice, readers are given an honest firsthand account of the decisions Shaich made as a hands-on leader. While his suggestions for defending against activist investors (who pressure management into decisions that boost their stocks) provides valuable instruction, it is Shaich’s personal reflections on dealing with change (including the decision to sell Au Bon Pain to focus on developing Panera) that offer readers the biggest gain.
VERDICT Like Howard Schultz’s Onward or Joe Coulombe’s Becoming Trader Joe, this mix of history, memoir, and business guidance delivers insight on running successful chain restaurants by focusing on customers. Shaich’s account of creating fast-casual dining is the most intriguing.
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