What To Know About The Au Bon Pain's Breakfast Menu

Your plane has just landed and you have a relatively short layover. It isn't so short that you need to sprint through the terminal, but it isn't long enough to meander through the duty-free store or leaf through some novels at Hudson Booksellers. You need a breakfast sandwich, pronto. And as if on command, you see Au Bon Pain.

Whether you first came across it at the airport or walking down the street in your local city, Au Bon Pain has been a fixture for many cafe-dwellers for years, selling freshly baked pastries and a vast array of sandwiches. In the morning, customers can start the day off on the right foot with an assortment of breakfast items and coffees on offer. That being said, you'll want to keep a few factors in mind the next time you decide to pop in for a bagel and hot tea before the start of your work day.

It serves breakfast all day

If you are a big fan of breakfast, you'll be glad to know that you don't have to worry about rushing to Au Bon Pain first thing in the morning if you're craving an egg sandwich. In fact, as long as your local cafe is open, the chain serves breakfast all day. While many fast-casual restaurants only serve breakfast during morning hours and switch over to lunch and dinner menus around 11 a.m., Au Bon Pain keeps the eggs scrambled and the coffee flowing throughout its normal operating hours. 

The decision to have breakfast available all day long could be a result of the growing breakfast market, which Globe Newswire reports is estimated to reach a compound annual growth rate of 6.3% by the year 2030. As demand continues to increase for breakfast, customers may start to seek their morning meal in the afternoon and evenings as well.

There's a reason it's so similar to Panera

Au Bon Pain is not the only fast-casual sandwich chain around. The restaurant industry is stacked with competition, especially when it comes to breakfast. Heavy hitters like Starbucks offer both an array of beverages as well as an assortment of sandwiches to enjoy throughout your day. But one restaurant chain bears a striking resemblance to the one at hand: Panera Bread.

The real reason Panera Bread and Au Bon Pain are so similar is that the two were originally under the same ownership. Founder Ron Shaich created the Au Bon Pain Company in the 1980s, going on to acquire the Saint Louis Bread Company which ultimately became what we know today as Panera Bread (via CNBC). In the late 1990s, Shaich sold the Au Bon Pain brand to concentrate on expanding Panera, and the two bread shops went their separate ways. Eventually, Panera bought up Au Bon Pain in 2017, only to sell it to Ampex Brands in 2021 (via CNN).

Business relationships aside, Panera and Au Bon Pain share many commonalities. They are both fast-casual restaurants with cafe vibes, serving sandwiches, pastries, and other baked goods. One striking difference, per CNBC, is that customers are more likely to find an Au Bon Pain at their local airport or hospital than a Panera Bread.

It has French bakery staples on its menu

You'll quickly notice that the restaurant chain's name is not English but French; "au bon pain" translates to mean "from good bread." Indeed, the chain strives to live up to its namesake by offering freshly prepared items like sandwiches, pastries, or soups in bread bowls all made from quality ingredients — not unlike what you might find in a French bakery or pastry shop.

If you are looking to lean into that French aesthetic, there are a number of staple menu items you should try out. Croissants are undoubtedly associated with French cuisine, and Au Bon Pain offers a variety of them on its menu, including almond, chocolate, or ham and cheese. Aside from croissants, customers can also order fresh baguettes. 

Will they be up to the same standard as the pastries you would find in Paris? Perhaps not, but if your sense of wanderlust has you dreaming about strolling through a French city or countryside with a baguette in one hand and a croissant in the other, tide yourself over until your next trip by stopping at your local Au Bon Pain.

One breakfast menu item is more popular than the rest

When you visit a restaurant in a new city or country for the first time, it's natural to want to eat as the locals do. Asking the server about the most popular dish is a safe bet that you are going to enjoy your meal, or at least gain a deeper insight into what makes a particular restaurant tick.

At Au Bon Pain, the signature item to order is The Good Egg. The sandwich was introduced several years ago and became a permanent fixture in 2017, according to a press release. The vegetarian-friendly sandwich comes with two eggs, cheddar, tomatoes, avocado, spinach, and lemon aioli, all served on a rustic baguette. Repeat customers commonly cite that their go-to order is The Good Egg, as one Redditor remarked. Similarly, a student at Duke University, told the Duke Chronicle that their favorite thing to order at the campus Au Bon Pain was the Good Egg — they even preferred it over Panera Bread's breakfast sandwiches.

So, next time you are visiting Au Bon Pain, give The Good Egg a try to see what all the buzz is about. Check around its anniversary in January and you might even score a can't-miss deal.

Its coffee and tea is highly ranked among U.S. restaurant chains

For many of us, a good breakfast is simply not complete without a cup of coffee or tea to wash it all down. Those of us who need a jolt of caffeine every morning are in good company. In 2022, the National Coffee Association reported that two-thirds of Americans drink coffee every day. That is a lot of customers to help with their morning wake-up routine. Au Bon Pain — which is listed by Newsweek as one of America's favorite restaurant chains for coffee, tea, and baked goods — serves hot and iced coffee drinks, espressos, teas, lattes, and smoothies to go alongside your sandwich of choice.

And its customers seem to hold those beverages in high esteem, as the chain was included in CSP Daily News' list of 20 great coffee programs for 2022. While over half of its customers rated the coffee quality as "very good," it is not only the variety and flavor that makes Au Bon Pain's beverages stand out. The chain also uses Arabica beans that are free from herbicides and grown in the shade, which Home Grounds explains tends to produce superior quality.

The nutritional stats of its breakfast items varies

Like most restaurants, you will find a wide range of nutritional statistics across the various dishes. Whether you are looking to indulge in a truly savory breakfast sandwich or you want to remain conscious of the calories, carbohydrates, sodium, etc. you are consuming, there are menu items that fit the bill. A quick glance at Au Bon Pain's nutritional menu gives you a lot of insight into how your breakfast order breaks down into key metrics so you can track your choices.

Many of the breakfast sandwiches pack quite the punch — and not all of it good. We are sure an egg, sausage, and cheddar sandwich on an Asiago bagel is simply divine, as indicated by close to 700 calories and over 1,000 milligrams of sodium. Even the power protein wrap, which provides a whopping 32 grams of protein, is still sodium-dense with 1,020 milligrams. On the flip side, you can also order classic oatmeal, which is lower in calories, cholesterol, sodium, and carbohydrates.

Au Bon Pain's bread is freshly baked before the sun comes up

If you are a morning person (and we mean an extreme early bird), you might want to fashion yourself a career as a baker. Baking fresh bread in the oven is a process that takes some time, so starting well ahead of the morning rush is necessary to keep items in ample supply. Bread enthusiasts on The Fresh Loaf community board point out that getting started at 5 a.m. is considered late if you want to open a bakery in time to serve hungry customers looking to grab a pastry on the way to work.

Au Bon Pain seems to be well aware of the realities of what it takes to bake fresh bread every morning. It notes on its website that bakers arrive by 4 a.m. each morning to begin preparing and baking the signature breads and loaves, hours before the first customer steps foot in the door. It's a good thing that those bakers arrive before the sun comes up in order to get the stores ready for customers, because the baked goods sure go fast, as a former employee notes (via Niche). 

It once sold endless coffee for one year

How does an unlimited supply of coffee sound? To some, that may seem like a dream come true; to others, it may come across as a caffeine-induced nightmare. In 2017, Au Bon Pain was the place to be if you wanted to pay for your coffee just once without having to worry about it for another 365 days.

At the time, it offered its Endless Coffee Mug program, which cost $199 and came with a branded stainless steel mug and endless hot coffee or tea refills in the mug for the entirety of the year. If you typically purchased five coffees per week throughout the year, joining would yield you savings of $300.

The program was not without its restrictions: It was non-transferable and the user had to present their refillable mug every time. The refills were also restricted to hot coffee or hot tea (sorry, no endless lattes or iced coffees). The Endless Mug program seems to have only been offered once, though Au Bon Pain has introduced other ways to save on beverages, including seasonal offerings like free iced coffee and iced tea to celebrate the start of spring, according to People.

A new breakfast sandwich was designed by employees

They say that the only constant in life is change, and restaurants certainly want to keep their menus fresh and interesting to ensure repeat customers continue to come back. Au Bon Pain is no stranger to limited-time menu offers, including seasonal items like its bacon jalapeño avocado toast. But when the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down supply chains worldwide, the sandwich shop needed to become innovative with its new offerings.

The idea came about to turn to those who have a more intimate knowledge of the menu than anyone else: the employees. Restaurant Business Online reported that the chain held an employee contest known as "Sandwich Madness" in 2022, challenging Au Bon Pain workers nationwide to come up with the latest menu item.

Two winning teams were ultimately chosen, and the champion breakfast sandwich came from a corporate cafe in Cleveland. The winning sandwich, called the Cleveland Fireside Egg Sandwich, comes with eggs, hardwood smoked bacon, Swiss cheese, tomatoes, sliced jalapeños, spinach, and chipotle mayo on a ciabatta. The company noted that it intended to feature both winning sandwiches as limited-time offerings in late 2022.

You'll receive a free travel coffee mug when you join the E-club

The Endless Mug campaign may have come and gone, but there are still ways to take advantage of free perks at breakfast if you are an avid customer. As we mentioned, Au Bon Pain's menu includes a variety of coffee beverages to give you that extra jolt of energy in the morning. For those of us who need daily caffeine, the cost can add up quickly. So, how does discounted coffee sound? All you need to do is join the restaurant's exclusive club.

Au Bon Pain's E-club provides its users with access to special promotions and savings on various menu items, including coffee. In fact, when you sign up for the E-club, you will receive a free travel mug just for joining. Who doesn't love free things, let alone a free travel mug for your favorite coffee beverage? Additionally, the E-club includes deals like a complimentary birthday meal (via Best Rewards Programs).

The breakfast menu is vegetarian-friendly

Dining out can be a tricky road to navigate if you follow a specific diet or have any food allergies. The last thing you want to worry about at the start of your busy day is having to find a cafe that will accommodate your dietary restrictions. If you are vegetarian, however, you'll find that Au Bon Pain actually has a lot to offer on its menu. It notates which items are vegetarian-friendly, and as per the online menu, there are quite a few dishes to choose from. Even the signature The Good Egg breakfast sandwich is up for grabs.

Other vegetarian options on the breakfast menu include the egg white, cheddar, and avocado sandwich, classic oatmeal, and assorted bagels with cream cheese. There are also all of the tasty sweets to enjoy, along with Au Bon Pain's breakfast beverages. Vegan choices are a bit more limited, but seasonal dishes like avocado toast or the classic oatmeal make a nutritional meal.

Au Bon Pain is expanding to reach more customers

According to Au Bon Pain's website, there are currently over 250 locations around the globe, but there is always room for expansion. As the restaurant looks to the future with its new parent company, there has never been a better opportunity for progress.

A key part of the acquisition by Ampex Brands includes plans for expansion, beginning with the company's corporate-owned locations, per Baking Business. Chief executive officer of Ampex Brands, Tabbassum Mumtaz, told the outlet that Au Bon Pain is "well-positioned to grow" as a cafe and bakery hybrid. So, you may soon find new Au Bon Pain stores in your local area. First, however, that expansion will be preceded by an effort to revitalize existing cafes around the country.

In September of 2022, the chain unveiled plans for a sleek new design to be implemented across its various locations. The "Back to Bright" campaign, which includes revamped interiors, is scheduled to launch in 2023 (via Food Business News).