Instant Alert: We tested Panera against one of its biggest competitors — here’s who emerges victorious

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  We tested Panera against one of its biggest competitors — here’s who emerges victorious by Hollis Johnson on Apr 5, 2017, 2:12 PM Advertisement

JAB Holdings, the owner of several service brands including Krispy Kreme and Peet’s Coffee & Tea, is buying Panera Bread Co. for roughly $7.5 billion. This should scare cafe chains like Starbucks and Au Bon Pain, Panera’s main competitor.  And while their offerings may not be as good as homemade, both Au Bon Pain and Panera serve all the epicurean comforts we often crave: steaming soups, mac and cheese, hot paninis, and more. But a question arises: Whose food is the better lunch choice? Panera Bread, with over 2,000 locations worldwide, and its rapidly expanding competitor Au Bon Pain, which has over 300 locations, serve very similar menus. We put Panera Bread and Au Bon Pain in an extensive head-to-head test to find out who serves the better lunch.SEE ALSO: We compared Taco Bell to a West Coast competitor that people are obsessed with — and the winner is clear ALSO READ: How a 19-year-old turned a sandwich shop into a billion-dollar business

The two fast-casual cafe giants offer very similar menus, so we chose a handful of items we think are classic and hearty cafe fare.

First up: sandwiches. Here are both chains’ takes on the hot chicken and mozzarella panini.

Au Bon Pain’s Chicken Pomodoro sandwich — with chicken, mozzarella, asiago, tomato spread, and roasted tomatoes — was underwhelming. Despite being made fresh to order, it tastes like prepackaged chicken parm. The ciabatta bread is spongy, and the spreads were lacking flavor.

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