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Au Bon Pain to open in library

Nicole Michels | Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hungry students will no longer make a “LaFun run” to refuel during late-night study marathons in the Hesburgh Library now that Au Bon Pain will open on the library’s first floor in November.  

The café will supplant the vending machines in the first floor lounge, which have been relocated to the basement lobby.

Associate Director of Retail and Food Services Administration Mark King said the addition of Au Bon Pain will satisfy the cravings of a large portion of the Notre Dame community.

“Au Bon Pain is a bakery, fresh sandwiches, soups and salads place very similar to Panera Bread,” King said. “Au Bon Pain actually created Panera Bread … a lot of people on campus want Panera Bread but we aren’t a big enough market to warrant a Panera Bread – this way we are able to satisfy that group of people without duplicating anything we already had on campus.”

The continual product development and variety at Au Bon Pain will add to the café’s appeal, King said.  

“They have a coffee/barista station, a plain coffee station, a smoothie section, sandwich section, premade sandwiches and salads, breakfasts and oatmeal served in the morning, and different soups that are appealing and different,” King said. “The menu will change periodically as well, with seasonal salads and soups and fresh baked goods.”

Michael Davy, Food Services administration continuous improvement manager and future manager of the library’s Au Bon Pain, said he suspects the café will receive a lot of foot traffic.

“I think people will come and try what’s offered at the café because people want to experience something a little different,” Davy said. “We’ll hit traditional meal periods, and outside of traditional meal periods students that use the library will be able to stop by and get a sandwich, use our full espresso coffee or smoothie programs or get a late night snack.”

Hesburgh Library Facilities Manager Ross Ferguson said a joint team of Food Services staff and Hesburgh Library staff concluded Au Bon Pain was the best option for the library.

“A committee of five of us met with Food Services to discuss Au Bon Pain and other local and national options,” Ferguson said.  “Au Bon Pain we could get going by November, but the other options would push us back to 2013.”

Davy said Food Services looked for a restaurant that would compliment the other eateries on campus, fit in the available physical space and satisfy consumers.

“A few factors in the decision were the quality of the menu’s offerings, the corporate franchise support and uniqueness of the new café – there’s not one in the immediate area,” Davy said. “Primarily though, the biggest thing was the quality of the food.”

The focus at Au Bon Pain is on producing fresh food, Davy said.

“One of the interesting quality principles of Au Bon Pain Corporation is that any prepackaged item that’s made for sale in a to-go container is made for sale that day, on that day,” Davy said. “You can get made-to-order things, but nothing is held over to the next day… that speaks to the quality principles of the franchise.”

The café will even make nutritional information readily accessible, Davy said.

“We will have a nutritional kiosk where any customer can use a touch screen to find out the nutritional components of any of the menu items in the store,” hy said.

King said Au Bon Pain’s structure will work well with the café’s planned schedule.

“Au Bon Pain’s concept has the ability to expand and contract based on the [consumer] volume, which is very convenient,” King said.  “This enables the café to act as an accordion: there are going to be busy times and slow times, especially because we’re looking at being open for a very long time([7 a.m. to 1 a.m ]. At the times with less traffic fresh sandwiches probably won’t be offered.”

Ferguson said he did some personal research to test how well-suited the first floor of the library would be for Au Bon Pain.

“We wanted to see how many people were walking by that location in order to show that this was a viable place for the café,” Ferguson said.  “I watched the number of people passing one mornin, and counted 72 people coming in from the parking lot, most of them with coffee in their hands.”

Many student concerns revolved around the accessibility of the future café, Ferguson said.

“We feel that a large percentage of the students want places open, that they feel there are not enough places open on campus [that late]… the café going in, courtyard being finished and fishbowl renovation all go into the big picture plan,” Ferguson said.

The affordable price point Au Bon Pain offers made it an attractive choice, Ferguson said.

It doesn’t make sense to bring in a big fancy place that [students] can’t afford,” Ferguson said.  “DomersDollars, fresh food, healthy choices: that’s what the students asked for.”

Senior Tyler Bartlow said he thinks students will appreciate the café’s accessibility.  

“It will be great to have a food option within the library when I’m studying,” Bartlow said.

Senior Ashlee Hunt said she is looking forward to the addition of an eatery to the library.

“I don’t know what it is but I’m excited for food to be in the library, especially relatively inexpensive, healthy food,” Hunt said.

King said the café will open in November.

“We’re shooting for a November 12 opening date, but that’s contingent on construction getting done,” King said.   It will be interesting to open it up during a football week, but that will help us give it a big kick-off.”