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Boston, USA
Design director

Panera Bread is working with Michelle Stuhl & Company to find a design director in Boston, USA. 

Michelle Stuhl & Company is a global retained executive search firm specializing in recruiting creative and business talent for executive positions.

We are working with Panera Bread, the leader in fast casual dining, on an exciting opportunity for a design director to lead the design organization on the waterfront in Boston.

We are seeking a talented and highly creative designer and leader with strong residential, restaurant and hospitality design experience to oversee the creative output and design execution of the Boston-based café design team. An architecture or interior design degree is preferred.

The design director must have the talent to guide and inspire thoughtful design and the ability to transform fresh ideas into actionable prototypes and to lead the team to execute beautiful, locally relevant cafés.

Bill Sleeth, SVP of customer experience is leading the Panera creative organization. Bill, a visionary designer, led the store design and concepts team at Starbucks for many years. He was responsible for shifting Starbucks from a rigid roll out strategy to innovating unique retail prototypes and experiences. This is an amazing opportunity to work with a compelling leader and to develop a design and innovation culture and capability in house for Panera.

Panera offers good for you, clean food, striving to make a positive difference in the lives of their customers. Panera Bread offers 100% clean, nutritious healthy options and transparency that matters.

If interested, please submit your application to Michelle Stuhl using the form below.


We are looking for an experienced and talented designer and charismatic design leader to lead the Boston design studio, with experience building and leading high caliber creative teams. The design director is primarily responsible for the creative output and design execution of the Boston-based café design team and in this role, will work closely with the design director leader of the St Louis studio. Both directors report directly to the VP of design management (responsible for business and process oversight) and indirectly to the VP design creative (responsible for concept development and creative output of the field teams). Together, the directors share responsibility to set a high bar for talent and lead the design teams to deliver thoughtful and highly creative design solutions that elevate the brand while accommodating business considerations, functional goals and our typical aggressive timelines.

Elevate design

  • responsible for leading the Boston design studio and for the design and overall look/feel of new and remodeled company and franchise cafés
  • lead and inspire the team to create thoughtful and highly creative regional design strategies and beautifully designed and executed localized store designs that align with current design criteria (strategies) and Panera’s high quality brand standards
  • at times and as needed, work directly with the VP design creative on the design and development of specific and unique high profile/flagship stores and/or new concepts
  • build a strong creative studio culture that encourages open discourse, collaboration and critical thinking. Has a passion for all things design that includes an understanding of history and current trends in design, furniture and fashion, etc.
  • leverage on-the-boards experience to provide focused creative direction and feedback that consistently drives and elevates design. Effectively address talent gaps and troubleshoot when needed
  • promote a successful attitude, confidence in leadership, and collaboration with a focus on elevating design while achieving business results.

Elevate talent

  • bring an intense focus on the building and development of high caliber design talent and a world-class design organization
  • responsible for elevating the level of existing design talent in the organization. Establish and sustain expectations for designer caliber (design and leadership capabilities) for existing and new associates at all levels in the organization
  • constantly build and develop a deep bench of diverse, high caliber talent at all levels in the organization. Work with the design directors to clearly articulate expectations to teams and provide effective and timely direction and feedback on performance and project work, identify high performing associates for development and promotion, and provide clear feedback, as necessary, to team members that do not meet expectations
  • leverage existing and personal networks and work with internal and external recruiting teams to source, interview and hire top design talent
  • identify and clearly communicate key responsibilities, best practices and expectations to ensure the success of the immediate team of direct reports
  • challenge and inspire teams and provide timely coaching, feedback, leadership support and developmental opportunities in order to achieve design and business results. Conduct and ensure the completion of performance reviews

The work

  • responsible for the review and approval of all café designs, including company and franchise new and remodeled cafes, and other brands/concepts as may be identified over time. Lead the open- forum style design reviews as well as offline review of all projects, and elevate the design output of the design studios by providing timely and focused design direction, coaching and guidance to the design teams
  • responsible for the quality, execution and timely deliverable of design and construction drawings. Lead team in the management and oversight of Panera’s outside architectural firms
  • directly lead and/or participate in select initiatives and/or programs. As needed work with the project teams to roll out to the field
  • support the cross-functional goals (operations, ops services, real estate, construction) to ensure that the design studios:
  • develop effective store layouts that meet functional and business needs.
  • collaborate with broader store development team to meet internal project timelines and construction budgets, hit annual new store and remodel project counts and achieve sales weeks’ goals
  • monitor the work quality of the external architect consultants to ensure they deliver high quality construction documents that comply with architectural and quality standards, building codes and health and safety regulations, on time and on budget
  • develops annual operating plan, budget, and regular forecast updates as required. Monitor and reports on studio design performance, progress towards annual goals, and collaborate with real estate and construction to report on variances in store costs and store count forecasts relative to strategic plans for the business unit

Summary of experience

  • five+ years of leadership/ownership of design firm experience
  • seven+ years demonstrated design leadership of multi-disciplinary teams (10+ people) in an architecture or design office environment
  • seven+ years of experience hiring and managing outside consultants
  • five+ years of experience building, leading and mentoring cross-functional teams
  • five+ years design of high-end single family residential, retail, restaurant and hospitality environments experience
  • three+ years general business experience in a medium sized organization
  • three+ years of experience of management of complex and/or large-scale multi-unit concept design projects
  • professional degree in architecture, interior design and or a related field of study.

Required knowledge, skills and abilities

  • excellent oral and written communications skills, highly organized and detail oriented
  • self-starter with ability to work both independently and in a team environment, and to foster teamwork among diverse groups and disciplines
  • strong work ethic and professional attitude with ability to thrive in a fluid, fast-moving, high pressure and constantly changing business environment
  • ability to manage multiple project timelines and schedules simultaneously and work with little supervision to produce high quality work on strict timelines
  • excellent computer skills and proficiency required. Prefer experience with ACAD/Revit and Google SketchUp

  • Applications have closed.