With over 30 locations in metro Atlanta, Panera Bread is one of the largest out of town fast casual eateries in Atlanta. In recent years, the chain has added new locations to Loehmann's Plaza near North Druid Hills & Briarcliff Roads, Powers Ferry Square in North Buckhead and Ansley Mall in midtown. The restaurant also has a location nearing completion in Kennesaw on Ernest Barrett Parkway. In Kennesaw, Panera and nearby Jason's Deli will both include a drive-thru, an unheard of feature in the fast casual segment years ago, but something that is becoming increasingly popular. For its part, Seattle-based Starbucks recently announced that 60% of their planned 1500 store openings over the next five years will have a drive thru.
Panera Bread at the 12th & Midtown project will open adjacent to the Bank of America branch in the street level retail at 1010 Midtown. The restaurant is slated to open later this summer and will join newcomer Mi Cocina on the front portion of the building and Rí Rá, RA Sushi and Piola on the back and side of the project. Ironically, NOON Midtown, which opened near RA Sushi in the first quarter of 2009 and offered sandwiches, soups and salads, (basically the same menu as Panera) closed in early January of 2011. NOON, a local restaurant, with slightly higher prices than Panera, but also undoubtedly higher quality, was located in what many would call a terrible location. With NOON on Crescent Avenue, hidden from the many eyes of Peachtree Street, it failed to attract the customers necessary to sustain itself. It will be very interesting to see how Panera fares with such desirable Peachtree Street visibility. Other than mall-based locations at Gwinnett Place Mall in Duluth and Town Center Mall in Kennesaw, I don't recall any other Panera Bread locations closing in Atlanta.
What are your thoughts? Will Panera succeed or will they fail? What would you like to see open next in midtown? Please share your thoughts below.