Fresh pastries will be on the rise in the Bryan Center this Fall.
National bakery and cafe chain Au Bon Pain will take over the Bryan Center spot formerly occupied by Alpine Atrium. The space, currently under renovation, will open early August. The new vendor will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, offering a healthy menu of soups, salads and sandwiches made to order, along with pastries baked on-site.
The change will be immediately noticeable to students, said Director of Duke Dining Robert Coffey.
“It will be a very bright, warm, inviting space, and we’re looking to enhance the patio seating,” he said. “A lot of [Au Bon Pain’s] food is so visual that it’ll be telling a story with the food choices that are visible to the customer.”
The addition of Au Bon Pain will address requests made by students in recent surveys on their Duke dining experiences, Coffey said. The restaurant offers vegetarian and vegan options and has a variety of low-calorie choices. It also has the capacity to adapt its menu to include seasonal specialties and other items in demand.
The adjustment was spurred by the West Union renovations scheduled for the summer of 2013, said Rick Johnson, assistant vice president of housing and dining. Students will likely turn to the Bryan Center for dining options during the two-year transition phase before the renovations are complete.
“Alpine was very limited,” he said. “It didn’t make sandwiches to order, didn’t make salads to order, didn’t offer six soups every day, didn’t offer a whole array of low-calorie offerings—and those are all the strong points of Au Bon Pain.”
A committee consisting of dining administrators and students from Duke Student Government and the Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee examined proposals last Fall from five restaurants before selecting Au Bon Pain.
“Students always want food that is prepared well, that’s healthy and quality and can be eaten very quickly to fit into the demands of student life,” said senior Beth Gordon, DUSDAC co-chair. “Au Bon Pain really caters to that niche.”
Alpine Atrium could have submitted a proposal but declined to do so, Johnson said. Alpine Atrium workers were employees of Alpine and not the University, so Johnson could not confirm if the same employees would be hired for the new Au Bon Pain.
Johnson declined to provide exact figures for the renovation project, but noted that Au Bon Pain is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the development of its Duke location, in addition to more than $200,000 contributed by the University.
The current Bryan Center redesign project includes construction of a basement kitchen for Au Bon Pain, using half of the large catering kitchen space next to the Von Canon rooms as well as the smaller space occupied by Alpine Atrium’s support kitchen. The new kitchen will measure approximately 500 square feet, Johnson noted.
Au Bon Pain and Duke were mutually interested in establishing the new location on campus, Johnson noted. Au Bon Pain operates at multiple universities, including Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania.
Both Duke and Au Bon Pain are looking for the restaurant to be a long-term addition to campus, Coffey said.
“They want to be at Duke,” he said. “They’re making a sizeable investment both in money and effort to build a new store on this campus.”