To make dough in the bistro business, it helps to start with good bread. ABP Corporation operates the Au Bon Pain bakery cafe chain, with more than 250 company-owned and franchised locations in the US, Kuwait, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, and Taiwan. The bistros offer a wide range of sandwiches, soups, salads, and baked goods, as well as coffee and other cafe beverages. Most of the restaurants are located in urban areas, but ABP also has on-site locations in airports, shopping malls, and on university campuses. The company also does catering and sells gift baskets. The Au Bon Pain chain was started in 1978 by Louis Kane. ABP is controlled by LNK Partners, a Boston-based private equity firm.
ABP's company-owned bakery cafes are concentrated in Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington D.C.
PNC Mezzanine Capital, an investment unit of PNC Financial Services, sold its stake in Au Bon Pain to LNK Partners in 2008. LNK injected more than $100 million into the business to fund further expansion. New Au Bon Pain locations are opening in suburban areas to compete with rival chains such as Panera Bread. Internationally, the company is looking toward Egypt, India, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia for growth.
Once part of the same company as Panera Bread, Au Bon Pain was sold to private equity group Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill, and Co. in 1999, which turned around and sold the business to UK-based contract foodservice operator Compass Group the following year. Compass sold a 75% stake to management (with backing from PNC Mezzanine) in 2005; it retains a minority stake that is classified as "up for sale".