Ron's confidence is not surprising given how far Panera has come. While most investors focus on the terrific food and ambience of the Panera concept, Ron's real genius was in extricating himself from a struggling Au Bon Pain business and transforming the company into a huge growth vehicle. I was there in the mid 90s, initially losing 50%+ of my investment, going to the SH meeting in Boston (there were no conference calls on the internet those days) to listen to a very sober Ron explaining how he was going to turn it around and believing that he would. Fortunately, I never believed in stop-loss orders.
For me awareness, branding and marketing are potential positives but neither the source of Ron's confidence nor essential for Panera's continued success. I see them as bonuses to what is and will be very successful already.
We had 23" in Central Park but somehow it doesn't seem that bad.