|Panera Bread opens new location in Brookside|
|Written by Kris Baker, Contributing Writer|
|Wednesday, May 23 2012 12:32|
The historic Brookside neighborhood has a new addition to its list of shops and restaurants, one with a familiar name but a new look.
Panera Bread opened its newest location on May 3 at 6301 Brookside Plaza. This location features a brand new design for a Panera restaurant.
“We have some great minds that came up with a look that we are very happy with,” said Eric Cole, vice president of operations for Panera Bread of Kansas and member of Congregation Beth Torah. He and his wife Michelle are also part-owners of this location. “Going forward, all new stores and all remodeled cafes will have this design.”
In addition to the new design, all Panera Bread stores still offer intimate seating areas, a community table and free WiFi internet access.
Though Brookside typically features more one-of-a-kind shops, Cole believes Panera has many of the elements that Brooksiders enjoy.
“We pride ourselves on being a neighborhood cafe with a friendly atmosphere,” Cole said. “With a focus on that neighborhood bakery aspect, we definitely fit in with what Brookside is all about.”
Cole believes this is not just grabbing a bite on the go.
“We have a comfortable space where people can come in, take their time and relax,” he said. “You can bring in your laptop and use the free WiFi. We have ladies come in and play cards at our tables. This continues to be a place where people can come and be in a casual, friendly environment.”
A friendly environment such as that would have to be fostered by the men and women taking the orders and preparing the food.
“It always starts with the employees,” Cole said. “It doesn’t matter how good the food is, if the employees are grumpy, people will not want to come back. So having the right people working our counters has been vital.”
Joining the Brookside community seemed like a logical next step for the franchise that originally began in St. Louis.
“We looked at a Brookside location for 10 years, but there had been an issue with the parking,” Cole said. “When that issue was resolved we jumped at the opportunity to have a Panera in Brookside.”
Cole says that their response in Brookside has been phenomenal, with the community welcoming them with kind words and repeat business. He says that Panera believes in paying back the areas they join.
“We want to be a part of the community, and to donate to the community. That has always been a part of who we are,” Cole said.
To donate to the community, this new location will join the other Kansas City area Panera locations in giving back through its local Day-End Dough-Nation™ and Community Breadbox™ programs.
At the end of each day, Panera Bread also donates all unsold bread and baked goods to local area hunger relief agencies as part of its local Day-End Dough-Nation program. Collectively, Panera bakery-cafés annually donate more than $100 million worth of unsold bread and baked goods to help people in need.
Cole began working for Panera 17 years ago in the marketing department and worked his way up to his current position. His experience has led him to a new opportunity with Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers in addition to overseeing the local Panera locations.
Cole now has a financial interest in new Freddy’s opening throughout the state of Missouri. The chain has the look of a ‘50s- style diner that Cole has long had an interest in.
“It’s a neat concept that always stuck with me,” he said. “Panera is still my day job. This is a business that I wanted to be a part of because I saw fantastic growth.”
This growth has not come overnight. After working with Freddy’s for two years, Cole’s first location opened on May 15 in Jefferson City, Mo. Cole was more than excited to see the work pay off.
“Excited is a vast understatement,” Cole said. “To see it finally come to fruition has been almost unbelievable. It’s like when you’re 16 and you’re waiting to finally be able to drive. The day it comes, the excitement is overwhelming.”
Cole has another Freddy’s location opening over the summer in Sedalia, Mo. For more information visit the website, www.freddysUSA.com.
For more information on Panera Bread visit www.panerakansas.com.
Panera Bread at 6301 Brookside Plaza is open Sunday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Monday through Thursday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, call Panera Bread at 816-363-0676.
Panera Bread of Kansas operates 33 bakery-cafe locations in both Kansas and Missouri, including the Kansas City metro area, Wichita, Topeka, Lawrence, Manhattan and St. Joseph. A new location is coming in June to Sedalia, Mo.