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NEW PANERA PRODUCTS AND TECHNOLOGY KEEP LARGEST FRANCHISEE EXCITED FOR FUTURE

Covelli Enterprises is not new to the restaurant game. The Ohio-based company has been in the business for more than fifty years, once one of the largest franchisees of McDonalds and now the single largest franchisee of Panera Bread, LLC with more than 315 locations nationwide. Throughout its experience, the company has witnessed countless trends and mounting consumer preferences. First customers wanted a ‘third space’ or ‘home away from home’. They also wanted convenience. Next they wanted unmatched food quality. Then they wanted complete menu transparency. Now it seems they want all of this and more – including all day access, anywhere they are. For any other brand, that might feel like an impossible mountain to climb. Sam Covelli, CEO of Covelli Enterprises, explains why Panera was built exactly for the purpose of addressing these ever-growing demands, and why his commitment to the brand only gets stronger as he watches it evolve to lead the industry where it is headed.

More than 20 years ago, Covelli Enterprises began franchising Panera restaurants to align with the consumer trend toward healthier food options. The bakery-cafe brand sought to challenge the expectation that quick service meant low quality and founded itself on the commitment to bake fresh bread every day with simple ingredients. The tradition of serving ‘food as it should be’ continues to be the foundation of the brand and has allowed it to remain ahead of the curve in addressing what customers want – and in Covelli’s opinion, this ability is exclusive to Panera.

“What makes Panera unique is that we didn’t need to change anything to give our customers what they wanted. The brand was built to already be that for them,” Covelli said.  “That’s the reason we took a chance on Panera back in the 90s before anyone knew what it was. We saw what was happening with customer preferences and found a brand we knew would not only be able to respond, but to help shape where the restaurant industry was going,” he said.

Panera has begun testing a 10-item dinner menu in Lexington, KY and Providence, RI available from 4:30-10 p.m. that includes three new product categories: artisanal flatbreads, hearty dinner bowls, and seasonal sides. If testing goes well, the brand seeks to bring these options to the entire chain in the near future. In a first step, all Panera locations launched two new grain bowls this month – including Baja and Mediterranean – served warm and with the option to add chicken or keep it plant-based. The company’s goal is offer more grains, plants, and proteins, with a focus on delivering craveable food that makes you feel not just full, but fulfilled.

Daniel A. Wegiel, EVP and Chief Growth and Strategy Officer at Panera said in a company release, “Interest in bowls that feature an abundance of nutrient-dense, fresh, layered ingredients, lean protein, veggies, grains and flavorful sauces is on the rise. We believe this product is the best example of what we stand for when we say ‘good and good for you.’ Panera’s warm grain bowls deliver on consumer demand for options that are both hearty and nutritious, that they can feel good about, without compromise.”

The warm grain bowls are designed to fit into a flexitarian diet and contain at least 29 grams of protein. They are the brand’s answer to the customer’s desire for something heartier than a salad, but healthier than a traditional sandwich, and is intended to appeal to a dinner crowd.

Panera’s recent menu additions are not its first attempt to branch out of the lunch daypart. In April it launched another set of menu items designed to attract the highly loyal and convenience-focused breakfast guest. The launch of new breakfast wraps and cold brew coffee along with a revamp of its hot coffee allowed Panera to add to its appeal for the busy morning visitor.

According to a recent QSR magazine article by Danny Klein, the benefit Panera has is that is has always been a brand with products that people believe in. The article sites data from a mobile location analytics platform saying, “when you consider Placer.ai’s data, it shows there’s customer demand and trust in the offering at Panera. The chain didn’t have to reinvent the wheel with breakfast. Guests know it’s there. It was a matter of changing how they access it and incorporating those products into daily routines” (Klein, 2019). In other words, these new products, rather than appearing like a diversion, made complete sense to the customer.

Panera has always been a food innovator. In 2004, Panera was the first major chain to launch chicken raised without antibiotics, and by 2005, it had removed all artificial trans fats from its menu. In 2010, it became the first national restaurant to voluntarily display calorie information on the menu boards, and in 2014 it committed to remove all flavors, sweeteners, preservatives and colors from artificial sources from its food. In 2015, Panera shared a comprehensive list of ingredients it planned to remove or never use with the unveiling of its famous ‘No No’ List. It also promised to use all cage-free eggs by 2020. In the midst of its menu modifications, the brand was also working to implement its Panera 2.0 initiative, incorporating technology to improve the customer experience through conveniences like online ordering. By early 2016, Panera had delivered on its promise of a 100% clean menu while simultaneously launching its small order delivery service. By the end of 2016, digital sales accounted for more than 20 percent of its business.

Recent menu changes, however, have not been made necessarily to appeal to new customers, but to appeal to the same customer at different times of day – or rather all day. The QSR article stated that brands are using customer frequency to fill the void of slower in-store traffic, attracting ‘stickier’, more loyal customers who are willing to dine with the brand more often and spend more while doing so (Klein 2019). The new products are also designed to fit in with the new ways people are accessing them – more portable wraps, for example. With the success of its Rapid Pick-up and Delivery programs, Panera has made its products as accessible as they are craveable. Panera now receives about 1.4 million online orders a week. That means while its stores may see less traffic during traditional dayparts, its digital sales continue to grow and allow customers access to the brand anytime, anywhere. The new, diverse products – designed to be transportable and for anytime-of-day appeal – fit perfectly into this tech-driven shift.

Covelli Enterprises has made it a priority to implement as much of the Panera 2.0 technology into its locations as possible. The company has invested in building new locations and remodeling existing ones to include drive-thrus, Delivery, Rapid Pick-up, and digital ordering kiosks. These changes required a significant monetary investment by the company – all part of Covelli’s long-established commitment to the Panera 2.0 vision, many years in the making.

“We’ve spent decades building the systems and the framework that allow us to react quickly and even be ahead of trends. Instead of working backward, we’ve always been thinking forward,” Covelli said.

For Covelli, his belief in the Panera brand has only strengthened as he has watched many other concepts jump through hoops to try and keep up. In his mind, Panera is the only brand that has taken steps from its inception to be ahead of customer demands. Panera’s forte is in its food, but also the tech behind it including a MyPanera database of more than 34 million people and now more than $2 billion in digital sales under its belt.

“Some concepts have to make sweeping changes. They have to stop in their tracks and reinvent who and what they are. We’ve never had to do that with Panera because even as everything changes, there are some things that remain the same. The customer will always want to be treated well and offered delicious food they can feel good about in a clean, friendly environment. The technology, the responsibly-sourced ingredients, the varied menu… that’s all just part of that. We’re still just delivering on those most basic promises,” he said.

Late this summer, Panera announced its partnership with third-party delivery providers DoorDash, GrubHub, and UberEats to be able to further expand its delivery business. The exciting changes from Panera will continue as it tests breakfast delivery, adds new conveniences like an easy reorder function to its app and more fast-pay options, and launches menu items designed to be enjoyed anytime – morning, noon, and night from wherever the customer pleases.

Covelli said, “We’ve had to get creative with how we are delighting our customers, but that’s what makes our industry – and our brand – fun. It’s the versatility of Panera in the face of new challenges that makes it so powerful.”

References:

Klein, D. (July 2019). Is Panera Just Beginning to Reach its Potential? Breakfast and dinner strategies could turn the fast casual into an all-day giant. QSR Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.qsrmagazine.com/fast-casual/panera-just-beginning-reach-its-potential.

Nurses Breathe Life into Community Event

In late August 2014, Mary Shortreed and Amy Weaver, both professors in the nursing department at Youngstown State University, participated in the Panerathon 10K/2 Mile Walk/Run for the very first time. They looked around them that day in amazement at the overwhelming number of people gathered in support of the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center and got to thinking how the YSU nursing program could get involved.

There were two of them that year. Now, the YSU Nurses make up a massive chunk of the largest team ever to participate in the event: the YSU Team Penguin Mega Team. This team had nearly 400 members in 2018, and the mass-interest in participating all began with the passion of these two nursing professors.

Mary said their goal has always been to show their students that being a nurse means more than just clocking in and out each day. It’s about a deeper connection to the community as a whole.

Her lesson to them: “Don’t just go to work and be a nurse. Support your community. Be active.”

In 2015, they decided to arrange a Panerathon team of nursing students. It didn’t take much for Mary and Amy to get their students excited about the event. The thing that makes nurses special – their desire to care for others – is the thing that ties them to their communities and motivates them to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Mary and Amy focused on encouraging the juniors in the nursing program to participate. They were blown away by the amount that signed up that year and also the number of sophomores, seniors, and alumni who decided to join them. The nurses did what nurses do – they showed up in a big way to be a source of support for their community. There were 160 of them total that year.

In that same first year of the YSU Nursing team, they arranged a choreographed dance and performed it before the start of the walk/run. This “YSU Nurses flash mob” has become an annual tradition ever since, and it is one of the most exciting things that happen before the runners take off.

“It’s a lot of fun, and it adds so much excitement,” Mary said. And each year she gets to relive what she fell in love with at her first Panerathon through the eyes of her students.

“Each year it’s a new group and a new team and that makes it even more special. It’s always fun to see the new nurses experience it and take it all in,” Mary said.

The YSU Nurses’ connection to the cause goes even deeper than their pre-race dance routine. The department’s involvement with Panerathon affiliated them with the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center and now 15-20 YSU nursing students filter through the center each year for their clinicals.

“They love it there. They get to see so many different things at the center including screenings, biopsies, and more,” Mary said.

She also noted that her nursing students always seem to comment on the personal approach of the center, its calming environment, and its impressive ability to address patient needs quickly and effectively.

She said, “Our nursing students are experienced enough to know and appreciate that if something is found in a patient, that it can be dealt with that day.”

The nurses’ relationship to the center and their experiences working there give them a unique understanding of how crucial it is to the women of the Valley. It renews their resolve to continue supporting it in any way they can – including through their flash mob group dance!

Amy doesn’t see the tradition going anywhere. She knows that the connection among the YSU Nurses, the JACBCC, and the event that brought them together – the Panerathon – will continue to be on display year after year.

She said, “Twenty to thirty years from now, we will look back on these first years that we started getting involved, and Panerathon will probably play our first flash mob video when it’s 30 years old…and we will look back on it fondly and laugh!”

It’s these unique ways that groups (like the YSU Nurses), businesses, teams, and individuals find to participate in Panerathon that make it a truly amazing and one-of-a-kind experience. Each member of the community embraces the event and makes it his or her own. In the case of the YSU Nurses, they have done with Panerathon what they do every day in their field – they breathe life into it with their enthusiasm, their support, their creativity, their spirit, their dedication, and their care.

Join the YSU Nurses at 9:20 a.m. in the runners corral Sunday, August 25 to kick off our race in the most fun way possible! View the video below to learn the dance and be a part of this amazing tradition.

Special thank you to Ashley Milligan Smith, YSU Nursing Alum and Shauntiaonia Johnson, YSU Nursing Student, who along with Amy Weaver choreograph, record, and star in the Flash Mob videos. At least one of them lead the dance at Panerathon every year.

LEARN THIS YEAR’S GROUP DANCE:

Panerathon is presented by Covelli Enterprises and Panera Bread.

The Panerathon Effect

How one community initiative supports another

Panerathon has been the region’s largest community fundraising walk/run for 10 years. It’s Covelli Enterprises’ largest undertaking, hosting 12,000 participants annually and raising more than $2.5 million for the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center in Youngstown, Ohio. Pulling together an event of this magnitude requires the cooperation of many diverse community members, some of which act completely behind the scenes. One of the most prominent examples of vital behind-the-curtain work is the time-consuming job of packing of the Panerathon race bags.

Each one is filled with promotional items and special offers from sponsors and needs to receive the exact same items as the next. Multiply that task by the thousands, and the result is an incredibly labor-intensive feat. There’s an extraordinary group of individuals who pack these bags for us each year, and we are taking this opportunity to pull back the curtain and share a little about who they are and why we are so proud to work with them: the clients of Lark Enterprises.

About 30 miles from our Warren, Ohio headquarters just over the border into Pennsylvania, Lark Enterprises is serving many notable businesses and groups including McKesson Pharmaceuticals, Adams Manufacturing, Lowes, Big Lots, Walmart, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and the Army Reserve. These, however, are NOT the clients of Lark Enterprises. It’s the employees of Lark Enterprises who are referred to as ‘clients’, because Lark is not a typical employer. It is a nonprofit vocational rehabilitation organization and day services provider for people with significant disabilities. The organization’s sole mission is to provide job training, employment opportunities, and social engagement for their clients so they can live full, independent, and meaningful lives.

Mary B. has been a client of Lark Enterprises for 38 years. She wakes up every day and goes into work doing very important projects for the high-profile partners of Lark. Her favorite job is stapling weights in vacuum bags. For Mary, the best part about her job is the people. Her job at Lark has taught her new skills, and given her friends and a pay check, things many may take for granted. For Mary, her position at Lark means being able to demonstrate her abilities, learn new skills, and venture into the community to develop meaningful relationships.

There are more than 200 clients at Lark Enterprises just like Mary B., and they are working in the community in very versatile positions and serving a wide-array of industries. Lark clients are providing everything from screen printing, mailing, and packing services to manufacturing, janitorial, auto detailing, and recycling services, all while receiving a living wage that helps them contribute to their families.

Susan Lautenbacher, Ph.D., CEO of Lark Enterprises, only the third in the nonprofit’s 62 year history, explained that raising a child with a disability is an expensive, life-long commitment. The clients of Lark Enterprises feel pride not only that they are able to work and support their communities, but that can help offset their cost of living and care expenses.

The clients of Lark Enterprises enjoy giving back and helping others. Their favorite projects are ones that benefit the community including supporting schools, churches, and the military. One project they were especially excited about was their support for Cribs for Kids, an initiative to promote safe infant sleep practices. They packed gift boxes with sleep sacks, pacifiers, crib sheets, and educational materials to distribute to low-income mothers to prevent sleep-related death among infants. Lautenbacher said the Lark clients took ‘a measurable pride in making a real difference and keeping the newborns safe’. When they aren’t working, Lark clients are also very active community volunteers doing food deliveries for Meals on Wheels or assisting at the local food banks. This type of work they find vastly rewarding, like the work they do for Panerathon.

“They realize the community does so much for them, so they love giving back. We all want to feel like we are a part of the solution. Through Panerathon, they feel like they are making a difference for breast cancer and getting that opportunity to give back. We are grateful for that,” she said.

Lautenbacher said that opportunities to support the community are a significant part of Lark’s full continuum of services. They aren’t just providing job training, but instead providing the chance for their clients to be fully involved in all aspects of community life. Lark clients spend 25% of their time in social activities like volunteering or attending baseball games and other community events. Lautenbacher believes that investing in ‘every part of the person’ is the best way to lift them up, and ultimately lift up entire communities – and she knows from personal experience.

Lautenbacher is a mother to an adult child with autism. When her son was young, she was told by doctors he would likely end up in a group home. Due to early intervention, he far exceeded the group home expectation and is now a high-functioning adult who is married to the love of his life with a seven-year-old son of his own. That is what helps ground her in Lark’s mission and drives her to continue to find ways to level the playing field for its clients.

“Everyone has the capacity to work 100% in the community,” she said, “we just have to be willing to support them.”

Dave Freshcorn, Director of Production Services at Lark Enterprises, feels the same way about investing in developing the talents of Lark’s clients, but he admitted that’s not the original reason for joining the organization. He took his position to find a better work-life balance after many years as the Operations Manager at a company in New Mexico. He wanted to be able to coach his son’s little league team and spend more time at home with his family. He accepted the job with Lark thinking it would be short-term solution. Fourteen years later, Freshcorn is still with Lark and credits the clients for keeping him there. He said he gets the same joy from watching the clients grow as he did from coaching.

“Watching our clients grow is just like coaching little league. It’s amazing to see the strong team members work hard to help others learn. To see them have money to buy their first iPhone and come to work and show me. It’s like planting a seed, watering it, and watching it grow.”

For Freshcorn, he found fulfillment in witnessing the clients’ progress and watching them find confidence.

“For many years you live with a label and you think less of yourself and then suddenly you can do a job anyone else can. What was out of reach for them, is now in reach,” Freshcorn said.

Debbie B. has been a client at Lark for 27 years. Her favorite work is packing giant cups and wiring light boxes. Debbie says that Lark has made her life better by teaching her new skills and helping her make friends. Debbie thinks that Panerathon is a very good thing especially for her, having lost someone to cancer. It makes her feel excited to help others out.

Freshcorn said many of the clients feel this way about packing the Panerathon bags. “They always love doing the job. It brings variety to what they do and they know they are helping the community. They take pride in doing it correctly. One program complements the other.”

We are proud that our Panerathon has helped so many women in the Youngstown region get the breast care they need, and we also grateful that our efforts are able to support wonderful organizations like Lark Enterprises and its clients, who in turn are out there giving back to their communities. It’s the Panerathon Effect!

We thank the clients at Lark for their hard work and for helping to make our event what it is. We couldn’t do it without their dedication to what they do.

For more on Lark Enterprises, visit larkenterprises.org. Be sure to register at Panerathon.org for the Panerathon 10K/2 Mile Walk/Run Sunday, August 25 to get your hands on one of these perfectly-packed bags and keep the Panerathon effect going.

The Music Behind the Man

Covelli Enterprises supports exhibition featuring rock and roll photography with special meaning for its CFO

The sun is just coming up in Warren, Ohio, but Bob Fiorino’s mind is already on his work. It’s 6:00 a.m. on a Sunday, but it’s very typical for him to head into the office. It’s because he’s incredibly hardworking, but also because he simply loves what he does. Bob is CFO of Covelli Enterprises and has been for the last 33 years, spending many weekends as the only one in the office. He knows the financials backward and forward of every one of the 315 Covelli-run restaurants. He spends his days diving into spreadsheets and analyzing numbers. Some people might think with how much he devotes to his day job that he wouldn’t have much time for any other interests. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Bob loves his work, yes. But there is so much more to this man than meets the eye.

You see, under his desk covered with sales reports and labor projections, Bob’s toe is tapping. He’s got music in his soul (and always playing on his computer).  And long before he was a CPA, Bob was the lead singer of a popular 1970s rock band called Mom’s Apple Pie that toured all over the country. The 10-person band played such venues as Whiskey A Go Go on Sunset Boulevard and Madison Square Garden with The Kinks. Their album cover has been featured in Rolling Stone Magazine. Now, the band will be showcased all summer long in “First Three Songs, No Flash: From Hometown Heroes to Hall of Famers,” a concert photography exhibition made possible by a donation from Covelli Enterprises that recently opened at Trumbull Art Gallery in downtown Warren.

Photo credit: Bob Jadloski


Photo credit: Bob Jadloski

The exhibition features the work of many Mahoning Valley photographers and the stars they’ve captured in their photography spanning decades including Elton John, Rod Stewart, Tony Bennett, Joe Walsh, KISS and many other Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees and top-drawing performers like Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, and Willie Nelson. It also features acts with Valley ties, both recent and from the past, including Bob’s Mom’s Apple Pie.

One featured photographer Bob Jadloski, a Warren native, joined Mom’s Apple Pie as a “roadie” through its touring days and documented the band’s time on the road and in the recording studio. His work has been compiled in a Mom’s Apple Pie feature wall within the gallery exhibition.

Bob said, “Of course it is a thrill to be ‘on the wall’, and sharing pictures and experiences with others will be a blast.” To him, this exhibition opens a door to recount stories from his musical past, something that has shaped him into the man he is today, but it’s also about giving well-earned acknowledgement to the men behind the scenes.

“Seriously, I’m more excited for the photographers than for me. They really deserve this recognition,” he said.

An opening reception was held July 13 at Trumbull Art Gallery with music by – you guessed it – Bob Fiorino in his newest musical act, FM Acoustic, a duo formed with his Mom’s Apple Pie bandmate Bob “Rollo” Miller. The two play local venues throughout the Valley, typically after Bob has already put in a full day at the Covelli office as CFO.

Bob’s interest in music began with watching Elvis Presley movies as a young child. “I thought it couldn’t get any cooler than that,” he said. But his love for music truly began in February 1964, with the appearance of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. He joined a band in the 7th grade and the rest is history. Music continued from then on to be a major part of who Bob is. Mom’s Apple Pie was formed and signed to a record deal with Brown Bag Records in 1970. They toured for four years from Boston to LA, but Bob eventually ended up back in Warren, Ohio where he got his accounting degree from Youngstown State University and started a family with his wife Lori – having two sons. After working several years at a CPA firm, he came to work for Covelli Enterprises in 1986 when the company owned just 24 McDonalds. Now the company is the single largest franchisee of Panera Bread in the country.


So how did he end up here? How did he make a complete 180 degree turn from rock star to accountant? If you ask Bob, he didn’t.

“Music and math have much in common with symmetry in scale, rhythm, pattern and so on,” he said. “Music also promotes inspiration and creative thinking. I think creativity at work is much underrated these days. I feel that I create at work every day.”

But music means even more to him than that.

He said, “Music may be doing more for me now than it even did back in the seventies. Back then I was a twenty year-old with a dream and not much else. These days, my life and our world are much more complex. I think my resurgence with music helps ground me in what is important. In fact, the [Warren] office thinks that music, and my grandkids, have made their work lives a little better.”

Music rather than being “extra-curricular” for an already busy CFO is actually a deep part of how he maintains a sense of balance. It allows him to be able to put so much of himself into everything he does. There’s a rhythm, a beat, to his entire existence that comes together like a beautiful song. There’s music behind it all.

Being CFO of Covelli Enterprises, a company that issues more than 35,000 W-2s annually, can be demanding. The one thing that continues to fuel his passion for his job are the individuals receiving those W-2s: the employees.

“My favorite part is without a doubt our people. I’m proud of the interactions and relationships within our company. In fact, when visiting our markets with Panera LLC company employees, I find that over and over they comment on the culture and friendship that exists within our organization,” he said.

When he’s not in the office or playing gigs with Rollo, Bob is “Papa” visiting his two grandchildren in Columbus, Ohio, a role he absolutely cherishes. He often brings his guitar and has begun instilling his affinity for music in his grandson. Both of Bob’s sons also play instruments and often join Bob for family jam sessions even now that they are grown and married themselves.

For Bob, there’s no end to his passion for the things he loves: his family, his work, and, of course, the thing that keeps his toes tapping: the music.

The “First Three Songs, No Flash” exhibition runs through August 24 at Trumbull Art Gallery where you will find among the beautiful concert photography, some gems from the past of our singing CFO.

Of the exhibit, Bob said, “We grew up with many of these photographers seeing their names captioned with so many pictures in the local newspapers. In fact, I grew up with two of the featured photographers, even taking a 9th grade photography class with them in high school. I think our community is excited that they are being featured at the art gallery. Couple that with pictures of some local rock bands that many grew up with, and also with pictures of some of the biggest names in rock. Now that sounds like a successful exhibit.”

For more on the exhibition, curated by Andy Gray Entertainment Editor at Warren’s Tribune Chronicle, see the following story link from the Trib:

https://www.tribtoday.com/life/ticket/2019/07/photography-show-chronicles-superstars-and-local-stars/

Be sure to follow @FMAcoustic on Facebook for upcoming appearances to hear for yourself the music behind the man.

COVELLI CENTER CELEBRATES GRAND OPENING IN THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY ATHLETIC DISTRICT


The Ohio State University Department of Athletics celebrated the Covelli Center grand opening Tuesday, June 18th as the newest edition to the Ohio State Athletics District. The Covelli Center will serve as a competition space for six varsity sports and over 150 student-athletes – projected to host at least 50 competitions annually in addition to numerous summer camps and Ohio high school tournaments.

The Covelli Center, a $48.9 million project funded entirely through private philanthropy, with Caryn and Sam Covelli at the forefront with their donation of $10 Million, provides a modern home for Ohio State student-athletes, coaches and staff.

“It is an honor to be a part of new traditions at The Ohio State University, the preeminent university in the country in both academic and athletic excellence,” said Sam Covelli of Covelli Enterprises, the largest franchisee of Panera Bread. “We are proud to have our name associated with this state-of-the-art facility that will mean so much to thousands of student- athletes and fans for years to come.”

Construction for the 100,000 square foot facility commenced in September 2017, The arena which holds 3,700 hundred people, also includes 10 locker rooms, 7 coach’s offices, a spacious athletic training area, and enhanced team meeting and study spaces. The arena will offer improved concessions and catering capabilities and an unparalleled guest experience for thousands of Buckeye fans during volleyball, gymnastics, and wrestling competitions.

“None of this happens without the amazing Buckeye philanthropy that is a part of the Ohio State University’s pay-it-forward tradition,” Alex Fischer, university trustee and chairman of the master planning and facilities committee, said. “To all of those who have helped us, especially the Covelli Family, thank you.”

“When you walk into a place like Covelli, it’s impossible to not to be grateful,” said Geoff Carlston, head women’s volleyball coach. “So when we’re breaking bread, we’re talking about ‘what are you thankful for today? What are you grateful for?’ And all of them [student-athletes], at one point or another, have said this building, this space, the ability to be here.”

The Covelli Center replaces the Buckeyes’ previous location in St. John Arena which was built in 1956. This incredible addition to the Athletics District will have a transformational impact upon current and future student-athletes, continuing the Buckeye tradition of excellence for years to come.


“I’m starting my first year as head coach in the best facility for a men’s volleyball program in the country,” Kevin Burch, head men’s volleyball coach said. “To be in a place like this, it was so well thought out, everything from the service space to the practice courts, to the amount of cameras and the technology that we have in here is second to none.”

Support for Autism Brings Communities Together To Help Make Dreams Real


Our company has hosted our highly visible ‘Pieces of Hope for Autism’ cookie campaign since 2011 to raise both funds and awareness for autism. What may not be as visible are the stories of how this cause touches lives at the national, regional, local, and even individual level. Our support for autism organizations has surpassed $2 million over the last 9 years, and it has helped us make lasting connections in every community we serve. This year’s campaign raised more than $310,000. It also helped us connect with a very special fire department in North Charleston, SC.

Autism is a cause near and dear to Captain David Reindollar of the North Charleston Fire Department.  His son Dawson was diagnosed with autism when he was 4 years old. Dawson, who was non-verbal until the age of 7, always had an affinity for drawing. In fact, drawing for a time was his primary way of communicating. One of his most inspired drawings was of a firetruck covered in puzzle pieces.


This drawing became the blueprint for a real-life Autism Awareness Firetruck and start of tradition by the fire and police departments and Lowcountry firefighter support team in North Charleston to immerse themselves in the community wherever they could. The truck allowed for both departments to engage with people in a very different and special way than they were used to. It also opened the door for meaningful partnerships like the one we formed with them this year.

In early April, we hosted a first-ever cookie decorating competition between the North Charleston Fire and Police Departments at our Centerpoint cafe to kick off the ‘Pieces of Hope for Autism’ cookie campaign. It was not only a blast for all who attended (and the nearly 3,000 viewers who watched via Facebook LIVE), but it was a remarkable coming-together in support of the cause.


Capt. Reindollar said the event gave them the opportunity to show their ‘human’ side to the members of the community in order to build the trust and connectivity that is so important between police and fire departments and the people they work to protect in their jobs every day.

“Our partnership with Panera gave us a platform to strengthen both sides – police and fire,” he said. “The event allowed us to come together and show personal care from both departments. Seeing the Mayor there and the police chief in a chef’s hat and apron, it matters. It’s something you don’t forget.”

Several customers were selected at random to judge the cookie decorating contest. Coincidentally, they said the reason they were meeting at Panera was to speak about their support for autism, unaware of the event that was taking place that day. The customers picked one of the police officers as the eventual winner, but the event – which helped kick off a record-breaking number of puzzle piece cookies sales – created winners all around.

Capt. Reindollar said his department’s support for autism has also meant a lot to him personally. “It helps me to know that I’m with a department that cares. They invest in me, so I invest back,” he said.

His sentiments are most certainly echoed throughout North Charleston. When government departments invest in their communities and causes important to its residents, the support, cooperation, and goodwill is reciprocated.

The Autism Awareness Firetruck is repurposed throughout the year in support of many other community causes. What started as a mere dream meticulously designed by a talented 10 year old is now a real-life symbol of unity for an entire community.

“I told Dawson that one day we would make his dream real, and now we’ve shown that truck at so many community events. It really builds his spirits to see people connecting over it,” Capt. Reindollar said.


The truck and the fire department’s support for the autism cause serve as a sort of glue bringing together many diverse community members. It strengthens the important bond between the police and fire departments and the residents of North Charleston.

Dawson is now 18 years old and just graduated high school this past month. Even at age 10, when he first drew the truck, he struggled to communicate. Now, he will be going off to college to study engineering, welding, and graphic arts.

“They are geniuses. You just have to let them find their area of focus,” Capt. Reindollar said of his son and those diagnosed with autism.

He said his family just allowed Dawson to grow in his areas of strength. He went on to say that children with autism need support and resources to be able to realize their potential. That’s why we at Covelli Enterprises passionately got behind this cause nearly a decade ago. We have been honored to use our Panera cafes and products to bring people together to give that support to those living with autism.

“An autism diagnosis isn’t an ending. It’s a beginning,” said Capt. Reindollar. “I can’t wait to see what is next in his story.”

100% of the proceeds from the annual sale of Panera’s ‘Pieces of Hope’ cookies are donated to support various autism causes including The Rich Center for Autism, Potential Development, Autism Speaks of Central Ohio, Dan Marino Foundation, autism centers at Cleveland Clinic, Dayton Children’s and Cincinnati Children’s Hospitals, and Autism Societies of South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, and Northwestern Pennsylvania. Funds are used by these partners to provide services, scholarships, research, treatment, advocacy, and resources for families to help more kids like Dawson make their dreams, reality.

Thank you to the thousands of community members across eight states who joined us in making this year’s campaign the biggest in our company history.

COVELLI ENTERPRISES LAUNCHES ‘CHIP IN FOR DAYTON’ CAMPAIGN TO BENEFIT VICTIMS OF RECENT TORNADOES

Panera Bread’s largest franchisee will donate 25 cents from every cookie sold June 3-16 to benefit the Greater Dayton Disaster Relief Fund

Covelli Enterprises announced this week it will host an emergency fundraising campaign called ‘Chip in for Dayton’ in its nearly 100 Dayton, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky, and Central Ohio Panera bakery-cafés. From June 3-16 for every cookie sold, Panera will donate 25 cents to the Greater Dayton Disaster Relief Fund of The Dayton Foundation to support relief efforts for local victims of the tornadoes that devastated communities in Dayton and surrounding areas last week.

In addition to the ‘Chip in for Dayton’ fundraiser, Covelli Enterprises also committed all Panera bakery-cafes in Dayton and Central Ohio to raising additional funds for the cause during the entire month of June through its Change Roll-up program at the registers. Ohio-native Sam Covelli, Owner and Operator of Covelli Enterprises, upon hearing of the destruction that occurred Monday, immediately pledged his company’s resources to the relief effort and began working with vendors to source urgent donations for victims including 35,000 bottles of water that was delivered Friday to The Foodbank in Dayton. The delivery was made possible thanks to the help of Covelli Enterprises’ partners Pink Ribbon Girls and United Building Materials.

“We’re doing all we can to help the situation in our Dayton-area neighborhoods, and we invite all other community stakeholders to do the same,” Covelli said. “Our goal is to give the people in the region as many ways to get involved in the relief effort as possible. We want the families affected to know they have our support and they are not alone in this.”

The benefitting fund, the Greater Dayton Disaster Relief Fund, was created by The Dayton Foundation this week to quickly respond to the most urgent needs within the community including food, water, clothing, and shelter for families affected by the storms, as well as to assist in long-term rebuilding and recovery efforts in the affected areas. The Foundation will distribute funds among several organizations including the local chapter of the American Red Cross and the Dayton Foodbank. More information on the fund may be found at daytonfoundation.org.

All cookies are baked fresh daily by Panera bakers, and the purchase of any cookie of any kind within participating Panera cafes in the region at any price point will benefit the “Chip in for Dayton” fundraiser.

Covelli Enterprises is committed to doing everything it can to assist the people of Dayton during this time of need.

COVELLI ENTERPRISES SECURES 35,000 BOTTLES OF WATER FOR TORNADO RELIEF EFFORT IN DAYTON


Panera Bread’s largest franchisee leverages regional partnerships to source critical donation delivered Friday to The Foodbank in Dayton

Ohio-based Covelli Enterprises – the largest franchisee of Panera Bread including nearly 100 stores across Dayton, Cincinnati, and Central Ohio – announced this week a critical donation to The Foodbank in Dayton of 35,000 bottles of water in the aftermath of the storms that devastated parts of Dayton and the surrounding communities late Monday night. The donation will be used by The Foodbank as part of the on-going tornado relief efforts and as the water supply in many areas remains in a fragile state.

“The response to tornado relief efforts has been incredible,” said Lora Davenport, Advocacy & Programs Manager at The Foodbank. “Covelli Enterprises and Panera Bread quickly stepped up and took action to make sure our neighbors affected by this disaster have drinkable water on hand. The Foodbank is thankful for their continued support.”

“Our hearts are beyond heavy after seeing the damage that occurred this week in our Dayton-area communities. The homes destroyed are those of our neighbors, friends, and employees,” said Sam Covelli, Owner and Operator of Covelli Enterprises. “We are so deeply saddened, but we are committed to doing all we can to help restore the light that makes this community shine so bright. Our hope is that we can encourage every partner we have in the region to get involved in some way and inspire other businesses to do the same. Now is the time to unite behind this effort.”


The City of Dayton and much of the surrounding areas have been under boil advisories for days after thousands of homes lost water service as a result of the storms. Davenport emphasized that even as boil advisories are lifted in areas, the vast need for water continues. The Foodbank, which has already exhausted much of its bottled water supply, will continue to serve homes and facilities left without running water and will maintain a special focus on providing food and water to the displaced families whose homes were destroyed. The water will also be used in areas where the boil advisories are still in effect and will be used for the teams of volunteers and first responders who will continue the clean-up and recovery efforts in the coming weeks.

The massive water donation is a result of the Covelli Enterprises’ partnership with Absopure, its water supplier based in Plymouth, Michigan. The company also leveraged partnerships with Pink Ribbon Girls and United Building Materials to ensure the fastest delivery possible to The Foodbank where it will be distributed to the areas of greatest need. The donation was delivered Friday morning and was received by volunteers from The Foodbank, Pink Ribbon Girls, and Covelli Enterprises/Panera Bread.

 Covelli Enterprises is committed to doing everything it can to assist the people of Dayton during this time of need.

Small Change Leads to Big Impact


Change Roll-Up and Community Breadbox Programs make major difference for causes in need of mass-support

It may be hard to imagine how a donation of a few cents can amount to any substantial worth for the partners that appear on our Panera change collection canisters. How much could it possibly amount to? We’ll tell you. It’s more than you might think.

In 2018 alone, these programs resulted in nearly three-quarters of a million dollars for partners in the communities Covelli Enterprises serves. A total of $623,557 was collected through these programs and directed back into the neighborhoods surrounding our cafes, benefitting causes that support children, autism, breast cancer, cancer, animals, veterans, education and more.

Still, these fundraising programs aren’t just about dollars and cents. These programs bring a significant level of awareness for our partners and their focuses, starting a conversation with our more than 2 million monthly customers. This type of exposure is invaluable to certain causes, especially ones like the On Our Sleeves initiative from our partner Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. This cause has in the past been an under-supported one, but Niki Shafer, Senior Vice President of Outreach for Nationwide Children’s Hospital Foundation explained how the hospital is working to change that.

Nationwide Children’s has started a national movement to break the silence surrounding children’s mental health. This cause is so important and affects so many, and that is why On Our Sleeves was created – to provide a network of support around the millions of families around the country dealing with mental illness by addressing the stigma associated with the diagnoses and providing the tools necessary to improve behavioral health outcomes.

“1 in 5 children is affected by mental illness,” Shafer said, “and the lack of resources for kids is compounding the problem.” According to the National Institute of Mental Health, less than half of these children receive the treatment they need.”

Many local community partners and businesses have now started lending their support to this cause that some experts consider a national crisis, and we are proud to be among them. Mental and behavioral health is at the center of Nationwide Children’s future strategic plans. In 2020, a new facility will open on its main campus that will be the largest behavioral health treatment and research center dedicated to children and adolescents on a pediatric medical campus in the country. The Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion has already broken ground and upon completion will be a nine-story, freestanding facility fully dedicated to children and adolescents with behavioral health conditions. It will also house researchers and provide for expanded education and training for those in the mental health field.

Nationwide Children’s goal is to develop a national model for pediatric mental health care and research and to share the learnings to improve care for children everywhere, including kids like Aubry, who at just 11 years old struggles with anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Aubry experienced symptoms as early as preschool and has been treated by the Behavioral Health team at Nationwide Children’s. These diagnoses, however, do not define her, and with the help of her clinician and the Nationwide Children’s staff she has been able to make positive strides in managing her fears and her compulsive behavior in order to function and prosper.

Aubry’s mom, Nikki, said “Nationwide Children’s has been there as a supportive organization for my daughter throughout her mental health issues. I look forward to working with the Behavioral Health team for as long as my daughter needs them. We want other families to not be afraid to speak up and acknowledge these issues in their own children. Ignoring issues and pushing them off for fear of someone judging you or your family is no way to live. The conversation starts with those of us that deal with mental health disorders, and we can carry that to our community.”

Aubry eloquently added her sentiments saying, “Just because you need to go to counseling or therapy does not mean that there is anything wrong with you! Be yourself and be happy with who you are, including your quirks and weirdness. Being ‘normal’ is boring, anyway!”

We at Covelli Enterprises are passionate about supporting amazing kids like Aubry, who need our help to move beyond their mental health issues. Our objective is to let children everywhere experiencing similar challenges that it is okay to talk about those challenges and seek help in managing them. To be happy being themselves!

The Change Roll-Up Program in Central Ohio resulted in a $30,000 donation for Nationwide Children’s in 2018. The On Our Sleeves campaign will be the featured partner during the months of May and November 2019. According to Shafer, dollars raised will support Behavioral Health Research and Care and will be used by the hospital for the areas of greatest need including, but not limited to, staffing, research, and programs for patients at the new state-of-the-art behavioral health facility. The goal of Panera’s 2019 Change Roll-Up campaign is two-fold: to raise at least $50,000 to support Nationwide Children’s pioneering work and to help garner support for this important cause.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. In honor of this, Albert Covelli, who also sits on the Foundation board at Nationwide Children’s, along with his wife Sarah, and son Theo appeared in several ads promoting our company’s support for the On Our Sleeves movement. In the campaign photos, they wear shirts with the phrase “I break stigmas,” which is exactly what the initiative aims to do. The message is clear: It’s okay to talk about children’s mental health, and it’s more than okay for companies and business leaders to step out and show their involvement. It’s crucial.


“Our family and the Central Ohio Panera Bread locations within Covelli Enterprises are proud supporters of the On Our Sleeves campaign,” said Albert Covelli. “We believe that we are not only in the food business but rather in the customer business, working to help individuals in our communities. We are honored to raise funds and awareness for pediatric mental health. Our children are the future, we need to care for them today to give them success in the years to come.”

With your help, our Central Ohio Change Roll-Up program will be fueling a positive change in the mental health outcomes for children of all ages like Aubry and countless others across the country.

Shafer said, “Support of children’s mental and behavioral health is desperately needed and we are sincerely grateful that Covelli Enterprises has been one of the first companies to step forward as an important voice in this critical effort.”

We are proud that our Panera cafes are able help lead this conversation, shedding light on and raising funds to support a necessary shift in the way we care for our nation’s kids. For more on Nationwide Children’s groundbreaking On Our Sleeves movement, click here.

We thank our customers for their on-going support of our Change Roll-Up and Community Breadbox fundraising programs and the difference they have been able to make for our community partners.

Does your change really make a difference? Absolutely!

How Your Contributions Support Our Communities:
The below chart breaks down the categories of non-profit organizations that Change Roll-Up and Community Breadbox funds benefitted in 2018.

Out of the Garden Project Turns Panera Product into ‘Tangible Signs of Love’ for Hungry Children in North Carolina

I decided to try and write this blog at 11:46 a.m. on an empty stomach just before lunch. It’s hard to concentrate as I struggle to ignore the loud grumbles and sharp pangs of hunger in my gut and the lightheadedness that comes with low blood sugar. I’m cranky. I’m slow. I’m not myself. This is how I feel, and I ate a full breakfast at 7:00 a.m. There are people out there who deal with this feeling all day, every day, chronically, and sadly most of them are children.

TEN-MINUTE PAUSE WHILE I ATE MY LUNCH AND RETURNED FEELING MUCH BETTER

Five years ago, the Greensboro, North Carolina area ranked #1 in the nation for hunger. Now, the area is #9 on that list, but Don Milholin, Co-Founder, Executive Director, and President of Out of the Garden Project, explains that the number of hungry children over the last five years has remained unchanged.

The sad reality is that thinking about children going hungry is an uncomfortable thing to do, so people simply… don’t. But childhood hunger, especially in North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad, is rampant even if it isn’t always overt.

“It’s not like with breast cancer how everyone is aware of someone who has it or someone affected by it,” Don said. “The truth is, 67% of public school children in our area are hungry, but people just aren’t aware.”

That means that if your child goes to public school and isn’t the hungry one, each of the two children on either side of your child IS. Wow.

For this reason, Don considers this the worst and most urgent epidemic facing the Triad right now.

Don and his wife and Co-Founder, Kristy, are no stranger to ‘living in lack’, as he put it. This is what he feels makes them uniquely inclined to help. They approach their mission from the perspective of their clients because they’ve actually been in their shoes. They were those children in need.

Don grew up in the Midwest with very little. His family lived in a dilapidated house – one he compared to the dwelling of TV’s The Munsters – that his family was unable to afford to fix. When he wasn’t being bullied for the state of his home, he was being teased for his size or for his dream of becoming an opera singer. His wife Kristy also grew up ‘in lack’, often having to accept mustard on bread as a complete sandwich or eating nothing but rice for weeks.

Both Don and Kristy eventually found themselves in better circumstances. Kristy put herself through beauty school, and Don pursued and achieved his dream of becoming an opera singer before getting his Masters and eventually teaching at both Duke University and UNC. But Don always wanted to do more to impact the world, if only just to help one other person or family in need.

Don and Kristy met and married, and they now have four children including two boys, 29 and 22, and two girls, 17 and 14. When the girls were in elementary school, Kristy took note of some children in their school who wore the same clothes every day and brought the idea to Don to do something to help.

That’s how Out of the Garden Project got its start. Don and Kristy began every Thursday in their kitchen packing small bags of food to serve 10 families over the weekends, to help nourish the children when they weren’t in school to be fed. Now, their organization is the largest of its kind in the region and recently celebrated 11 million meals served since 2009. They went from wanting to help a few families to now serving more than 10,000 people a month, with a focus on families with children.

For the last 6 years, Out of the Garden Project has been a recipient of food from our Day-End Dough-Nation program, receiving the unsold leftovers from 7 area Panera Bread bakery-cafes, 6 days a week. Panera bakery items are distributed to families through the organization’s Fresh Mobile Markets that distribute fresh produce, bread, meat, and shelf-stable items monthly to families throughout 18 locations in Greensboro and High Point. Each of the thousand or more qualifying families leaves with at least 65 pounds of food for the month. Panera products are also distributed to schools, as the organization partners with 50 Guilford County schools to feed nearly 2,000 students and their families on a weekly basis.

When asked what he appreciates most about Panera’s donations, he said, “Panera gives without any expectations except that we do something good with the food.” He went on to say,

“Panera has donated millions of dollars in food that could have been sold. Just by [the company’s] generosity, thousands of lives have been changed.”

In addition to being a Day-End Dough-Nation recipient, Out of the Garden Project was also the beneficiary of funds from our Change Roll-Up program at the registers of our North Carolina bakery-cafes last June. This year, the organization will be the benefiting organization during the month of August.

No matter how they distribute our food or utilize our donated funds, it is done so in a way that supports a single and clear mission: to provide tangible signs of love so that no child goes to bed hungry, to nourish children’s minds and bodies with food and with hope.

We are grateful and proud that our food can be that tangible sign of love for these children and families in need.

“When our clients receive the Panera their eyes light up,” Don said.

That light may just be the spark of hope for the future, and that is the gift we strive to give through our Day-End Dough-Nation program.

Don and Kristy believe that if you fix hunger, you fix many other problems in our collective society. Without adequate nutrition a child is unable to learn, grow, and create a promising future. “If you’re paying for tutoring for child who is hungry, you’re throwing your money away,” he said. Through the work of Out of the Garden Project, Don hopes to level the playing field. Before they can prosper in any other aspect of life, children must first have their most basic needs met.

The bottom line for Don, Kristy, and their operation is this: “Every person should have the dignity of being fed, clothed, and taken care of. Especially our children.”

For more on Out of the Garden Project, visit OutoftheGardenProject.org.

Click here to read about our Day-End Dough-Nation Program and how it supports the communities we serve.