Miss the Good Egg? You might not be the only one, but Panera is here to stay.
While most vendors in the Brodhead Center are based out of local restaurants in the Durham community, Duke has left the bottom level for major corporate café brands. This downstairs area was converted from Au Bon Pain to Panera prior to the start of fall semester. The switch, it turns out, is rooted mainly in a corporate acquisition.
Panera Bread recently sold Au Bon Pain to Ampex Brands, a large Yum Brands and 7-Eleven franchisee. This acquisition led Panera to convert many of its Au Bon Pain locations to Panera, which offers slightly different café food options.
“Panera reunited with Au Bon Pain after an almost 20-year split, purchasing them in 2017,” wrote Executive Director of Dining Robert Coffey in an email. “Panera has been transitioning most Au Bon Pain locations to the Panera brand.”
Last year, Panera approached Duke, proposing to transition the University’s Au Bon Pain to the Panera brand. The University approved of this plan and consulted the Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee (DUSDAC), who also approved the initiative.
‘It’s going to put Beyu Blue out of business’
While students may miss their ABP favorites, the switch to Panera offers other benefits, most notably the Unlimited Coffee subscription. The subscription allows students to get free coffee for three months. After that time, the subscription costs $8.99 per month.
“The new Panera seems to be quite popular on campus—students love the new food options and their deal including unlimited coffee for $8.99 per month,” said senior Alix Rosenberg, a co-chair of DUSDAC.
Senior Elliot Kelly is one of the many students who thinks that Panera is overall better than ABP due to its three-month-free coffee subscription.
“It's essentially highway robbery. It’s going to put Beyu Blue out of business,” Kelly said.
Although Kelly enjoys the free coffee, he does miss the Good Egg from ABP, which he said was the best breakfast sandwich on campus. He said that while Panera sandwich options are decent, none can compare with the Good Egg. However, he loves Panera’s cinnamon crunch bagel.
“The cinnamon crunch bagel is now the best pastry option on campus,” Kelly said. “So if you're a pastry person, maybe Panera is better. If you're a breakfast sandwich person, stick with ABP.”
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Sophomore Oleana Rivas enjoys Panera because she eats it all the time at home and feels that it’s a little piece of home at Duke. She often gets the Caesar salad, but she also loves their chipotle chicken avocado melt, smoothies and their mac and cheese, which she said was “so freaking good.”
“I literally can't remember ABP’s menu, which probably shows that it’s not very significant. I just remember that I wasn’t impressed,” Rivas said. “I would probably rank [Panera] top one or two. It's between Sazón and Panera, and then Ginger and Soy.”
Panera also offers online ordering via their website and self-serve kiosks to reduce lines. This use of mobile ordering technology is in addition to Duke’s implementation of the mobile ordering system last year, which was aimed at reducing the amount of people in lines at one time due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Being able to stop at Panera between classes has been one of the highlights of returning to campus—the online ordering system is reliable and efficient, giving me more free time to spend with friends instead of waiting in [the Brodhead Center’s]’s lunch-rush lines,” senior Taylor Horowitz said.
However, despite what Panera brings to the Brodhead Center, there are other students like Kelly who miss the breakfast sandwiches of Au Bon Pain. Sophomore Nathaniel Asia ate breakfast at ABP every morning and would get the same sandwich every time: bacon, egg and cheese on a biscuit.
“I feel like Panera doesn't really have the same options anymore,” Asia said. “Panera has, like, bacon, egg and cheese on, I think it’s called a brioche bun, but they don't have the biscuit option, and I just can't do it.”
Paige Carlisle is a Trinity senior and a staff reporter for The Chronicle.
Alison Korn is a Pratt sophomore and a features managing editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.