Panera Bread (PNRA) is considering putting itself up for sale, according to a Bloomberg report on Monday that sent shares through the roof.
The popular bakery chain, well regarded for its fresher ingredients and better service than that found at fast-food rivals, has attracted the interest of potential buyers, prompting it to consider so-called strategic options, Bloomberg writes, noting there is no guarantee of a deal.
Panera shares rose more than 8% on Monday afternoon to an all-time high of $292.52, taking its market capitalization to roughly $6.5 billion.
“As a matter of policy, we never comment on rumors or speculation,” CFO Michael Bufano told Fortune in an emailed statement.
The company has broken out of the busy casual eating sector by focusing on healthy foods, eschewing artificial additives and preservatives in its food, and in an upcoming move, including information about the calories and added sugars in the soft drinks it sells. Panera founder and CEO Ron Shaich has sought to position his company as a progressive chain, much as Chipotle Mexican Grill (COG) had been doing prior to a series of food safety issues that have hurt its sales.
In 2010, Panera became the first national restaurant chain to display calorie information on menu boards. Since then, its menu has been reformulated to remove aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, saccharin, and dozens of other ingredients as the chain aims to use only “clean” ingredients. All that has paid off in the forms of accelerating same-store sales gains in the last three years and numbers well above the industry average.
There have been a slew of deals in the restaurant sector of late. Restaurant Brands International, the owner of Burger King and Tim Hortons, just sealed a $1.8 billion deal for Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. Darden Restaurants, parent of Olive Garden, said last week it would buy Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen for $780 million. And Checkers Drive-In Restaurants said Oak Hill Capital Partners would buy it for $525 million.