The bakery-cafe chain Panera said Monday that it is asking customers not to bring firearms into any of its 1,818 outlets in 45 states.
The voluntary move followed what the advocacy group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America said was “months of discussions” with the company.
Panera said in a statement that it strives to create cafes “where customers and associates feel comfortable and welcome.”
"To this end, we ask that guns not be brought into this environment unless carried by an authorized law enforcement officer," the statement said. "Panera respects the rights of gun owners, but asks our customers to help preserve the environment we are working to create for our guests and associates."
Ron Shaich, Panera Bread Co.’s CEO, is shown in a file photo at one of the company’s stores. Credit: AP
Panera CEO Ron Shaich told CNBC that its request “is simply we recognize everyone’s rights, but we also recognize that we are building communities in our cafes and are where people come to catch a breath.”
Shaich added that Panera was “respectfully requesting” customers to leave their firearms at home, but will continue to follow state and local firearms laws.
Panera joins other companies like Target, Chipotle, Starbucks, Sonic, Jack in the Box and Chili’s that have responded to the organization’s appeal.
The advocacy group said Panera was the first company to move proactively to ask customers not to bring in firearms.
"Moms are the consumers-in-chief of our households and we will reward companies that take a stand for our families’ safety," said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action.
The announcement by Panera comes as Moms Demand Action, which favors stronger gun laws, is running a petition drive and ad blitz calling on Kroger stores to prohibit open carry in and around its stores.
Kroger — the world’s third-largest retailer, with more than $100 billion in annual sales — is the group’s biggest target yet. Company officials have said Kroger just wants to sell groceries, not enter political debates.
"Our long-standing policy on this issue is to follow state and local laws and to ask customers to be respectful of others while shopping," Kroger said in a statement last week. "We know that our customers are passionate on both sides of this issue, and we trust them to be responsible in our stores."