were higher after the baker said same-store sales rose 0.6% in the four weeks ended Oct. 4.
The results were in line with analysts' expectations, and the stock was up $1.58, or 3.7%, at $44.61. But Panera said average weekly sales -- a gauge of new-store productivity -- edged up only 0.1%.
"This suggests for the first time this year that stores less than 18 months old are opening up at lower than chain average volumes," said John Glass, an analyst at CIBC World Markets, in a research note.
Panera Bread is not the only specialty food retailer to report lackluster average weekly sales recently. In August, doughnut chain
reported that average weekly sales were flat in its second quarter.
Both restaurateurs rely on new shops to raise earnings. Panera is planning to open 140 new cafes next year. Meanwhile, analysts predict profit growth of 31% in 2004, according to Thomson First Call.
Glass said the latest change in momentum is "subtle" and that this happened last year. "Nonetheless, new-store productivity warrants watching as it has been a cornerstone of the Panera story," he said.