Bridge Café in Huntsman Hall, will close after this academic year and be replaced with the international sandwich chain Pret A Manger at the start of fall semester, according to an announcement sent out to the Wharton community on Monday.
This will be the first Pret A Manger outlet in both Philadelphia and on an American college campus. The chain began in London and only has U.S. locations in New York, Boston, Chicago and D.C.
Bridge Café, which opened in 2012 and was managed by Heathland Hospitality Group, has come to the end of its six-year contract and the University has decided not to renew it. Instead, the University signed a contract with its primary food service provider, Bon Appétit Management Company, to open Pret A Manger.
“We are excited to be able to listen to our students, and offer the kind of healthy options they desire," Wharton's CFO Harlan Sands said, according to the email announcement. "In addition, Wharton has been at the forefront of moves to sustainability and Pret A Manger certainly fits with the values the School has subscribed to over the past decade."
Bridge Café employees were told at the end of March that the location was closing and that they will be relocated to one of Heathland Hospitalities' other 15 locations. The company currently operates two locations on Penn’s campus aside from Bridge Café: Plaza Café, also in Huntsman, and The Daily Grind Café in the Penn Dental School.
Pret A Manger is a sandwich and coffee shop that offers handmade sandwiches, salads and wraps. The new cafe will continue to accept Dining Dollars. In addition to the spot at Bridge Café, there will be a smaller outpost on the second floor for primarily graduate students.
A popular feature of the cafe is its omelet station, which will not be returning with Pret A Manger.
“I would go there and grab omelets, especially during finals week before studying,” Wharton freshman Julia Wietrzychowski said. “I think a lot of people would do the same and it was part of the culture of Huntsman and Wharton.”
The email announcement revealed menu items, including Butternut Squash & Ricotta Mac & Cheese, freshly baked croissants and a selection of sandwiches, flatbreads, baguettes and desserts.
The announcement comes after the University decided not to renew its contract with The Fresh Grocer, the go-to grocery store for many students at the corner of 40th and Walnut streets. Instead, the University announced that it will replace it with an Acme grocery store, which would include a fifth Starbucks coffee shop to Penn's campus.
The closing of Bridge Café has confused many students who feel that there was no real reason to close it.
“This is horrible news. I’m so upset,” Wharton freshman Ally McGurk said. “I just don't understand why there was a need to change it, but I'm glad that there will still be food.”
Employees echoed these statements and said the cafe was quite popular and often packed with students.
“I don’t think it was unbelievably smart to get rid of [Bridge Café],” Jeremy Hughes, a Bridge Café employee, said. “It was a very popular place for students, and I don’t think it’s fair necessarily to end this convenient spot.”
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