The Panera Bread Company, which owns and franchises bakery-cafes under the Panera Bread and Saint Louis Bread Co names, yesterday [Wednesday] reported that system-wide comparable bakery-cafe sales increased 7.3% for the four weeks ended 29 December.

System-wide comparable bakery-cafe sales increased 6.3% for the fourth quarter and 5.8% for the full year in 2001.

Average system-wide weekly sales (excluding the three specialty bakery- cafes and closed locations) increased 10.0% to US$35,720 for the same four week period compared to US$32,484 for the five weeks ended 30 December, 2000.

Meanwhile, the full year saw average system-wide weekly sales (excluding the three specialty bakery-cafes and closed locations) increase 8.1% to US$33,608 compared to US$31,077 for the 53 weeks ended 30 December, 2000.

Panera revealed that during the Q4 it opened 39 bakery-cafes (seven company-owned and 32 franchised). Over the course of the full year, this figure increases to 109 bakery-cafes (21 company-owned and 88 franchised bakery-cafes) and closed two units.

In total, the company now controls 369 bakery-cafes (110 company-owned and 259 franchised).

The company is due to release its Q4 earnings on 7 March.