Food delivery robots and a north campus traveling coffee cart have spiced up student dining options throughout the past academic year. However, NAU Campus Dining Services is not finished renovating food options. The next academic year is set to replace two restaurants in the University Union with a newer, larger addition – an on-campus Panera Bread.
Casey Fisher, director of strategic planning and marketing of Campus Dining Services, confirmed the locational merging of G’s New York-Style Deli and Denny’s Fresh Express into a Panera Bread.
Fisher said the new bakery will more than likely require a greater number of employees than both the current deli and Denny’s restaurants combined. This is due to Panera Bread’s reputation of fresh bakery products, as fresh pastries are remade every day at the popular cafe as well as Panera Bread’s general upkeep as a bakery, deli and cafe.
Although Panera Bread seldom vendors in universities, Fisher is optimistic of its growth at NAU.
Though Campus Dining Services have not yet confirmed specific information about the Union’s upcoming addition such as specific hours or pricing integration into the meal plan system, the new food outlet has already stirred up conversation within the student body.
Sophomore Adora Hall, who utilizes her meal plan every week, is hesitant to let go of both G’s New York Style Deli and Denny’s Fresh Express. As a member of north campus clubs that meet later in the evening, Hall is a frequent visitor to Denny’s Fresh Express and hopes to see Panera Bread open later as well.
“I am just worried that there will not be enough places located around north campus open as late as Denny’s is open,” Hall said.
Despite her worries, Hall voiced her confidence in the new addition and still sees herself going to the future Panera Bread frequently due to its diverse menu.
Sophomore Kathryn Turrentine expressed her curiosity about Panera Bread’s weekend and weekday hours.
Turrentine, who regularly attends late-night astronomy and physics labs, wants Panera Bread to stay open later than the current G’s New York Style Deli, which closes at 3 p.m. and is only open Monday through Friday.
“I hope to see the new vendor open over the weekend as well as open later," Turrentine said. "There is already a lot of traffic after normal dining hours in the Union due to late-night classes.”
Turrentine said she wants to see Panera Bread accommodate on-campus students, because many students, especially freshman who live around central campus, are “stuck to campus” with their meal plans and location.
“Panera Bread as a campus vendor is appealing to me," Turrentine said. "A light soup after lab sounds nice."
Panera Bread locations around the country generally close around 9 p.m. in order to accommodate late-night customers. While the university has not confirmed the future restaurant’s campus hours, the new Panera Bread will be the only one in Flagstaff. The next closest Panera Bread is located about 90 miles away in Prescott Valley.