The largest Panera Bread restaurant in Philadelphia opened on Tuesday after months of construction delays. Originally slated to open in late April, then May, the new location near Penn's campus is now one of three Panera Bread restaurants in the Philadelphia area.
Panera Bread in University City is located next to Cinemark at the intersection of 40th and Walnut. The space was previously occupied by Harvest Seasonal Grill and Wine Bar. The restaurant has two floors and technological features such as outlets on tables and touch pads to order. It has numerous spaces to eat and study, including a private conference room upstairs and tables on the outdoor patio.
The restaurant’s manager Ashley Fusetti said this location is “one of the most unique Paneras" in the area.
“This cafe is opening with all of the newest features with the technology aspect of it, ordering online, delivery, catering,” Fusetti said. “We definitely have a more unique grasp than some of the other Paneras have started out with.”
The fast-casual chain serves soups, salads, and sandwiches in addition to baked goods. It also offers bike delivery within an 8-minute radius, and has a rewards program called MyPanera. The program allows frequent customers to earn rewards for buying food, including free baked goods and cafe items.
Originally scheduled to open by the end of April, American Bread Company Director of Development Peter Strang said in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian that the restaurant would open on May 20 because of construction delays. American Bread Company district manager Chris Mattiola cited the second delay from May 20 to June 11 as construction-related as well.
Fourth-year Penn Dental student Maddy Love said she is excited about the new restaurant and predicts Panera Bread will be “overrun by dental students” as a popular lunch and study spot.
“It’s super close by, less than a block away, and I think it’s going to be a great space for us to get lunch and study,” Love said. “Some of the people in the year below us are studying there right now.”
College sophomore Alice Zhao agreed Panera Bread will be a good study space, adding that she would use it more like a café than a restaurant. 2019 College graduate Michael Krone, who advocated for the opening of Panera during his time as Undergraduate Assembly President, ate at the restaurant with his friends when he was visiting campus on Tuesday. The restaurant was the “nicest Panera [he’s] ever been to in [his] life," Krone said.
Strang said the restaurant's large seating capacity will be an advantage, adding that many of the restaurant's local competitors have limited seating. Panera Bread is one of several new restaurants opening near Penn's campus, joining the The Halal Guys and Bonchon.
Mattiola said community members have been “extremely welcoming and very friendly.”
“The locals who actually live in the community have come by while we were training and told us how excited they are,” Mattoila said.
Fusetti said Panera Bread started hiring and interviewing staff at the end of April and beginning of May, and held a one-week training period for employees. She added that 95 percent of the staff are new to the chain.
“It’s been a long process, but the staff has been extremely patient,” Fusetti said. “The community has been extremely patient with us and we’re finally excited that it's started and paying off and we’re ready to go.”
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