July 19, 2019 | 93° F

Newly opened Panera on College Avenue has already become popular destination for students

Photo by Jeffrey Gomez |

Over the summer, Panera officially replaced Au Bon Pain in one of the most coveted pieces of real estate on College Avenue. Located adjacent to the student center, the new branch has already been successful in attracting business.

Upon repurposing what once stood as Au Bon Pain, Panera’s newest College Avenue location is now open for students and faculty seeking their daily bread bowl fix.

The chain is known for serving food with no artificial preservatives, sweeteners, flavors or colors from artificial sources. In addition, the restaurant promises a variety of diet alternatives for vegetarians or those looking to implement more fruits and vegetables into their diet.

Brian Klinger, the assistant manager of Panera, said construction for the new building took place throughout the summer with help from roughly 20 members of Panera’s team, who specialized in disciplines from design and marketing to management and oversight.

Entering the building three weeks prior to its completion meant Klinger was tasked with managerial duties and ensuring that the worker application process ran smoothly in addition to working with fellow store managers making sure the building ran efficiently.

“I am very happy with what we have seen from the building so far,” Klinger said. “We are constantly being approached by students and faculty telling us how happy and excited they are that we are here. We reciprocate that and are happy to be located in such a unique place.”

Panera’s atmosphere strays from its conventionally located mini-malls and places the chain in a more lively setting, Klinger said. The new location is outfitted with charging ports built into every table, free Wi-Fi and plenty of sunshine peering through its large glass windows.

Its amenities add to the growing presence of eating establishments on campus aimed at catering to members of the academic community, providing students and faculty a space to work collaboratively or just take a breath amid their busy days.

“We like to be an everyday oasis. You have classes and work, we like to be the quick spot you come into and relax with for a little bit,” he said.

Klinger said that student workers constitute roughly 80 percent of the establishment’s staff and continue to increase as they offer employment opportunities with flexible scheduling.

“It works because the students are taking care of their peers and recognize familiar faces greeting them at the door. It’s cool to see the customer’s perspective in recognizing a familiar face with a life story,” he said.

Some of the staff's favorite menu items include the bread bowl with mac and cheese and the strawberry banana smoothie, in addition to seasonal items such as the summer squash and turkey chili soups dated for release later this week, Klinger said.

Katie Siegel, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said prior to the new building nothing drew her to the old location. Only after Panera opened its doors did she express excitement and recognition for the chain she liked.

The restaurant’s location makes it a convenient place to grab food, Siegel said. Other students seem to share similar opinions as the location has a constant flow of students lining up to place their orders.

“This is the first time I have sat outside, usually I just take it to go. I feel like anywhere you go on campus the lines are going to be busy so I usually do rapid pickup because I have no patience. It shows how popular it is,” she said.

Tara Viray, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior, said the crowds of students coming to the new store have increased wait time, but that she thinks things will likely calm down once the semester starts rolling.

Not many people knew much about Au Bon Pain, Viray said. Panera stuck out as a more recognizable name among students and immediately raised excitement when they announced the new addition.

“When visiting Au Bon Pain options were limited to items like soup and coffee," she said. "At Panera, there is much more variety to choose from while still being able to order the same menu items from the old location."

Christian Zapata

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