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Panera could become Starbucks' biggest threat, analyst says

Watch out, Starbucks.

At least that's what one restaurant expert warns, following Wednesday's big announcement from fast-casual chain Panera Bread.

"[Panera] could be a competitive threat to Starbucks," Morningstar Global restaurant analyst R.J. Hottovy told CNBC's "Power Lunch" on Wednesday.

The St. Louis, Missouri–based chain announced Wednesday it has struck a $7.5 billion deal with European headquartered JAB Holding, the owner of Caribou Coffee and Krispy Kreme, to take Panera private.

JAB has offered $315 in cash per Panera share, representing a more than 20 percent premium to the stock's closing price on March 31, its last trading day before media reports of a potential deal.

"[JAB] overpaid in this case," Hottovy told CNBC. But investors can also make the case that Panera has done a good job of tapping into consumers' preferences and leveraging technology to its advantage of late, he said. "You also have to factor in what JAB will [now] do with Panera."

"Panera will reportedly operate independent of JAB management, but we wonder if this signals a strategic shift from the defensive to the offensive for [the firm]," Morningstar wrote in a Wednesday note to clients. "... With this acquisition, we start to see some intriguing potential synergies."

Shares of Dunkin' Brands — the owner of coffee chain Dunkin' Donuts — fell slightly on Wednesday's takeover news. Some analysts thought JAB was considering buying Dunkin', but the Panera acquisition now makes the possibility of this much less likely, Hottovy said.

Panera, with JAB's help, could now do a whole host of things to compete with coffee giant Starbucks, Hottovy emphasized, including launching smaller-format stores, more delivery options, extending its mobile order platform across other JAB-owned brands and putting more packaged goods into grocery stores.

"Panera could be [JAB's] first move going after the likes of Starbucks," he said.

Shares of Starbucks traded slightly up under 1 percent on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Panera's stock soared more than 14 percent, hitting an all-time intraday high of $312.98 per share on the heels of the announcement.

Watch: Analysis of the deal