Skip Navigation Return to the top of the page
Search Jobs

Job Search

VP, Product Development Chef

Needham, Massachusetts
Category Support Center Location ID 1 Location Name Needham Support Center Address Three Charles River Place State/Region Massachusetts Postal Code 02494 Country United States
VP, Product Development Chef


Panera is looking for an Executive Chef at the Vice President-level (“Chef-VP”) to join the Concept Team to add a key strategic culinary voice, advocating and leading customer-centric food innovation. This role will be involved in leading initiatives that enhance Panera’s customer experience and create a competitive advantage. Critical to the role is the ability to liaise with a variety of cross-functional teams inside Panera, leveraging the cumulative skill-sets. This will include areas such as Strategy, Day-Part Expansion, Category Management & Menu Development, Supply Chain, Operations, Design & Voice and Marketing.

Panera Bread is an organization that is continually evolving and iterating. The company continues to look for ways to better service their target customers, understanding that yesterday’s achievements will not necessarily translate into tomorrow’s success. Panera’s management team lives and moves in a “created future” where they constantly challenge the status quo to meet—and anticipate—their customer’s needs. Successful candidates for this position will grasp that fact and know how to build “end user focus” for any given initiative, understanding the conditions of the environment into which new initiatives will be rolled out.

Panera is a very high-touch and active environment with multiple key initiatives being driven forward at any given time.

The new Chef VP must be comfortable influencing in highly ambiguous and fast-paced environments, where more needs to be done with less, and quickly. It should be expected that the scope of these multiple initiatives will range across all disciplines, including, but not limited to Menu, Design, Operations, Packaging, Equipment, Sustainability, etc. This candidate should inspire creativity in food as well as creativity within the team by demonstrating outstanding leadership that channels the culinary expertise while encouraging the team to seek deeper knowledge and experiences in other specific areas.

Scope of Responsibilities

Drive Research & Insights – Working with the VP of Innovation, leverage a variety of data-gathering tools and information assets, macro trends, consumer segmentation, need states, market structure, consumer behavior/attitudes, qualitative research, competitive benchmarking, personal observation, to further the process of understanding where opportunities exist to create new value for Panera. Continue to develop and expand Panera’s view of the consumer trends landscape in order to capture how trends are evolving, and the implications for Panera. Partner with Panera’s Research & Insights specialists to apply the trends within the businesses for maximum impact.

Identify Business Opportunities – Working with the VP of Innovation and the Research & Insights specialists, translate insights and information into actionable concepts and go-to-market frameworks that can become promising initiatives and major growth opportunities across the entire Panera enterprise - Menu, Store Design, Operations, Packaging, Equipment, Sustainability, Guest Experience, etc.

Determine the Priorities – With the VP of Innovation and the Strategy team, identify specific business opportunities to pursue, based on strategic fit within Panera and the brand’s core equities, size of the prize (NPV, ROI), odds of success, and timing. Key to long-term success will be driving a series of near-term, smaller-scale wins, as well as larger-scale, longer-term “homeruns,” so the portfolio of new initiatives has balance in terms of Core category strategies and new “further-out” development opportunities. This role will champion the culinary work put against every initiative from concept ideation through sensory evaluation and testing in the field.

Qualify, Test and Expand – Lead (and collaborate with) a multi-functional team of Panera colleagues, and external food vendors to deliver craveable, affordable food options against all identified initiatives. This work will spearhead a variety of tests and assessments, to prove the concept appeal, the financial upside associated with the initiative, scalability, and operational feasibility. This role will lead and coordinate all culinary inputs to innovation projects, continually monitoring new initiatives and course correcting as market conditions warrant or learnings develop. Keen operations experience and an ability to focus on ‘what really matters’ will be essential skills – looking for simplification and executable development is essential at Panera where all food items are prepared and produced for the customer on a tight target timeframe in a fast- moving environment. Once testing is completed, the VP Chef will help spearhead the rollout with Marketing and Operations partners and will be an important voice in our market messaging and activation.

Evangelize an Innovation Food-Focused Culture – With each commercial success, leverage that momentum and seek to expand the scope and impact of the Culinary Innovation team, including pushing the capability further across the Panera enterprise, further across geographies and new formats for team Panera. Develop and lead the Chef team to be business-focused – strategic in their work with a true focus on the core strategic role required by each platform and product. Drive effective ways of working for the Chef team with strategic development objectives at the core. Consumer focus and operations focus need to be held close as success metrics.

Seek, Create and Leverage Best Practices – Over time, seek out and connect Panera with other industries, companies, scientists, and thought-leaders that are continually setting the bar in terms of global best practices on the Innovation front. There is a rich world of ideas, technologies, learnings and experts who can and will help Panera build this capability. This role will need to be outward-looking – close to trends, our vendors and a watchful eye on the competition.

Innovate to support and drive multiple Panera business goals - the VP role will need to be flexible and handle multiple important business goals.  Product development will need to achieve several criteria across strategic parameters - brand (fit, positioning), strategy (customer needs, daypart strategy, category strategy), financial (price, targeted cost, margin, volume expectations), operational (prep labor, production labor, waste, packaging).  This role will also work against a broader brand and marketing-driven calendar, all designed to elevate the brand.  This role will need to be keenly collaborative with all core teams and disciplined in juggling multiple business objectives.

Lead, develop and hold accountable the Culinary Directors – This team has a mixture of tenured and newer members. Methods of working, accountability and – above all – truly creative innovation that delivers the right product at the right price for our customers will be core accountabilities for this VP role. Instilling discipline alongside a culinary vision will be essential for success.

Performance & Success Measures

  • New revenue and gross profit generated from Innovation initiatives
  • Craveable, category-leading food development driving “customer love” and repeat sales
  • Differentiation - leading product development vs our competitors
  • Wellness as a guiding principle – maintaining and driving our relevance
  • Simplification as a core metric – the pantry, operational excellence and menu construct
  • Brand health measurements
  • Delivery of Innovation across business units
  • Successful integration of new initiatives with Marketing and Operations
  • Successful partnership-building with external resources
  • Successful in supply chain liaison and long -term planning

Location & Travel

This role will work out of Panera’s Boston, MA office, but will require travel of 50%+.  It is important to live and breathe in the cafes where Panera is innovating and iterating on new products to really understand what Panera’s everyday customers and operators are seeing and saying.

Experience Base

  • Culinary Innovation Experience – Track record and a history of culinary accomplishment with demonstrable skillset in food development strategy, commercialization and core operational focus. Ability to lead a team of experienced Chefs.
  • Industry Experience – Ideally, experience from a leading Casual Dining/QSR restaurant business or CPG company, and specifically, within a larger, well-resourced, matrixed organization.
  • Business Experience – Track record of working effectively as a Chef-Business Leader.  Proven experience championing broad initiatives, leading cross-functional specialists, external partners while leading, managing and developing functional Chef Team reports.

Skill Set

  • Food focused leadership – connected to trends and dialed-in with the consumer
  • Conceptual leadership (destination planning and idea delivery)
  • Resourcefulness
  • Building from scratch (starting something new, working with limited resources)
  • Analytics and Strategic Planning (gathers critical data, makes/influences decisions)
  • Relationship-focused
  • Communications
  • Technical (understands R&D skills around product design/testing, Design Thinking)
  • Financial
  • Connected (understands how to work in a networked world)
  • Entrepreneurial leadership (ability to lead/align teams through change)
  • A strong leader who loves to inspire, create accountabilities and model behavior
  • Disciplined and able to execute against the multiple parameters we need to operate within

Personality Profile

  • Passionate about food mission
  • Creative culinary thinker
  • Sophisticated palate
  • Flexible and adaptable
  • Oriented to results and value-creation
  • Patient, possessing stamina
  • Personally warm, open and collegial
  • Curious about, and engaged in emerging food trends
  • Comfortable with ambiguity

Needham Support Center

External Reference Code JR0018825 Company Name 100 Panera, LLC

Learn about our Delivery Team

Let's Stay in Touch

Join our Talent Community to receive email job alerts and discover great career opportunities near you! It’s easy, sign-up and stay connected.

Interested InSelect a job category from the list of options. Search for a location and select one from the list of suggestions. Finally, click “Add” to create your job alert. You can create multiple job alerts.

  • Support Center (Corporate), Needham, Massachusetts, United StatesRemove
  • Support Center, Needham, Massachusetts, United StatesRemove

* indicates required field

* indicates required field