by DEANNA BIONDI
Panera Bread opened in the University Center this semester in the location previously occupied by Qdoba, Jamba Juice, and Lil Joe’s. Nearly a month after opening, students are still expressing some confusion regarding the new Panera’s operation.
“I kind of wish I knew when I can get how many [meal swipes for menu items] or how much flex,” said Sarah Hendrickson, a junior English and theatre major.
Students have also noticed Panera cashiers using calculators when ringing up customers’ orders. According to Christine Porter, who serves as Dining Services Liaison for UMW, all items available on the Panera menu can be purchased for meal swipes. Unlike other on-campus retail locations such as Vocelli Pizza, Panera does not use the UMW retail system in the registers; they use Panera Bread’s standard retail system. For that reason, they cannot input meal swipes into their registers.
That’s where the calculators come in. Panera cashiers need to calculate how many meal swipes – the equivalent of between four and five dollars – can be applied to a single order, and how much flex needs to be used to cover the remaining balance. In addition to the standard register system, the on-campus location also uses Panera Bread’s standard menu, so it is not specialized to reflect UMW’s meal system.
Porter said that there are plans to replace the current on-display menu with a more specialized version, to include meal deals.
In response to questions regarding price differences when using cash as opposed to a meal plan, Porter clarified that meal swipes and flex do not have tax applied to them.
“When you use your meal plan, you don’t pay tax,” she said. “So [the price] is going to be higher when you’re paying with a credit card or cash.”
Until recently, the Panera closed at 6 p.m. “It’s that way because we had to make a choice,” said Porter. “We had to either delay the opening by another two weeks or so, or set up shorter operating hours because of the assistance that we’re receiving from Panera Corporate.”
This means that the hours were limited to allow time for UMW dining employees to receive training from Panera Corporate employees. As of Saturday, Feb. 1, the Panera hours have been extended to 7:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Friday, and noon-7 p.m. on weekends.
As Bodacious Burgers was supposed to close when Panera opened, students were surprised to see it still in the Eagles Nest this semester. “I thought it was supposed to be a temporary thing,” said Britney Walters, a senior English major. “I like it over there, but I was confused to see it still here this semester.”
Porter clarified, “They had only intended to have Bodacious Burgers open in the fall of 2019. It was a lot more popular than anyone expected. The feedback we were getting was that people wanted Bodacious Burgers to stay open, so they chose to keep it open this semester.”
Despite originally only intended for the fall, Bodacious Burgers was reopened at the beginning of this semester, according to the Bodacious Burgers page of the UMW Sodexo dining website, “during the Panera Bread transitioning period.” Now that Panera is up-and-running, however, Bodacious Burgers remains popular..
“My understanding is that it’s doing really well,” Porter said. “They expected sales at Bodacious Burgers to go down when Panera opened, and that has not been the case.”
Bodacious Burgers shares a register space with Hissho Sushi, which opened in fall of 2018. During peak lunch hours, employees often work both the Bodacious Burgers and Hissho Sushi registers simultaneously.
“Right now I think it’s a semester-by-semester thing. A lot of times it depends on whether or not they can staff [Bodacious Burgers], but I can confirm that it will be open for the spring,” said Porter.