New high-tech Panera Bread now open in Bay City
The popular cafe and bakery chain opened its Bay County location at 3983 Wilder Road on Wednesday, Jan. 17 2018.
An updated exterior design features muted colors and awnings, with plenty of patio space. A drive-thru gives motorists easy access from either side of the corner of Wilder Road and State Street Road.
Its first official day of business was Wednesday, Jan. 17.
A new interior design differentiates this Panera from other restaurants in the chain. The location is the fourth of its kind in the U.S. to feature a smaller design with speed and convenience in mind.
The store features booth, table and bar-style seating and is also equipped for catering.
The interior design also employs muted colors, simple wall-hangings and subway tile for a clean, minimalist look.
Like at the chain’s Saginaw and Midland locations, customers can order from kiosks near the entrance doors rather than approaching the counter. But the new location offers an added convenience…
An RFID-equipped tracker allows servers to bring customers’ orders directly to their table. Rather than vibrating when a customer’s order is ready, the tracker beckons an associate who brings the food to the table.
RFID stickers mark each table for the trackers, allowing customers to pick a table of their choosing and let the computer system take care of the rest.
A tracker shows servers which table to deliver each order to. The chain aims for an average turn-around time of about three and a half minutes, and the new system of table delivery is designed to compete more directly with its less health-oriented fast food competitors.
In addition, customers can order food directly to their table from Panera’s smartphone app, foregoing the kiosk or cashier entierely.
General Manager Caitlyn Steele says she’s already seen a positive reaction from the community. Many of her new employees, like Brandon Taylor, pictured, live in Bay City.
“The people here are so darn friendly,” Steele said, adding that she expects the chain to perform well in the area. “This layout is meant to serve smaller communities, but I think Bay City will surprise people.”
In addition to the kiosks, customers can order traditionally from a wide variety of fresh breads and baked goods, all on display behind the counter.
Though customers can order delivery of their catering menu, Panera’s Bay City location won’t be delivering regular menu orders right off the bat.
“It’s something we do have plans for,” Steele said, “but we’re evaluating demand right now.”
The store, led by General Manager Caitlyn Steele, a five-year veteran of the company, currently employs 65 people. Employees from Flint, Saginaw and Midland locations are in town this week to train the store’s permanent employees.
Several employees trade shifts as overnight bakers, burning the midnight oil to turn out cart after cart of fresh bread. “There’s someone in this building 24 hours a day,” Steele said.
Behind the scenes, a walk-in oven allows employees to turn out an entire cart’s worth of bread at a time. A smaller, multi-use oven takes the place of the deck ovens used at most Panera locations to make the most of the restaurant’s reduced footprint.
General Manager Caitlyn Steele says the cafe chain’s bakery turns out about 600 bagels each night. The store bakes all new bread each day, donating leftovers to Bay City’s YMCA Youth Group.
Some bakery products are more demanding than others – Steele says each of the bread bowls in which customers can order soup takes about four hours to bake, which makes planning the overnight bake list an important part of managing the store. “If you run out of bread bowls at 2 p.m., you’re not getting them until 7 p.m.”
Those familiar with Panera might know the chain for its focus on fresh, additive-free ingredients. Calorie-counters can even track the nutritional impact of each of the store’s drink options, which are printed on the soda machine and lemonade dispensers.
The cafe offers a broad menu of hot and cold espresso drinks as well as a half-dozen varieties of black coffee – including decaf – before 2 p.m.
Gift cups will be handed out to new customers who sign up for the free MyPanera Card program, through which the chain distributes promotions and special offers.
The store’s location on Wilder Road was planned to offer easy access off of I-75 and from nearby Bay City Town Center. Even though it’s one of the few Panera locations that emphasizes speed over size, Steele says she expects Bay City residents will embrace the opportunity to dine at a health-oriented restaurant with speedy service.
“Right now we’re ready for 100 people to walk through the door,” Steele said.
Posted By: mlive on January 19, 2018. For more information, please click here to read the source article.
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