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Panera Bread Closed, Temporarily?

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photo of Panera with dumpster in foreground
Exterior of Panera Bread on Saturday, Dec. 3. Photo by Carla Occaso.
You can see big dumpsters and other signs of activity at Panera Bread on the Barre-Montpelier Road, so what is going on?

The Bridge went to take a look Dec. 3, and found the door open, the interior in the process of being emptied out, and large dumpsters on the exterior. However, nobody answered several loud calls of “Hello?” Additionally, there were no signs posted (building permit or otherwise) notifying the public about what was happening. A staffer answering a call to the corporate office number said the building was listed as being “temporarily closed” as of Nov. 29, but there was no indication of a permanent closure.

Montpelier resident Gene Leon notified the editor of The Bridge saying he had been called to do some dismantling at Panera Bread, and that “the representative at the facility refused to answer questions regarding the business and why it chose to close suddenly.” But whether the restaurant is closing permanently or is just closed for renovations remains to be seen. And if the national media is to be relied on, Panera has survived the pandemic and other national crises intact.

The restaurant chain in general has successfully survived COVID-19, a labor shortage, and inflation so far, according to an April 2022 New York Times article by David Gelles. The article, titled “How Panera Bread Navigated Covid, the Labor Market, Inflation, and More,” quotes Panera Chief Executive Officer Niren Chaudhary saying, “Consumers are getting more and more conscientious about what they put in their bodies, and also about the impact their food has on the environment around us, and on the planet.” The article describes how the restaurant attempts to combat climate change as much as possible. Additionally, a CNN Business article by Jordan Valinsky in June 2021 titled, “Panera Cafes are Getting a Whole New Look,” describes how the eatery is implementing a “pandemic-induced redesign that doubles down on digital ordering and drive-thrus.” The redesign also involves contactless ordering through kiosks and the Panera app. Also, bread ovens will be placed where consumers can see them to enhance a bakery experience, the article further states, adding that the first Panera bread was made from a 30-year-old sourdough starter “from which all of its sourdough bread is still made today.” The “mother bread” logo is also going to be more prominently displayed.

The company has 4,000 restaurants in 10 countries according to panerabrands.com.

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