Panera Bread is Closing Monday

McDonald's is Thriving
By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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Fans of Panera Bread only have a few more days to enjoy soup and sandwiches at the chain’s restaurant in Lincoln. The store will close this coming Monday, according to Linn Parrish, Panera’s vice president of public relations. “It was a well-loved café and we do have other cafes in the area,” Parrish said Monday. Panera Bread has been open in Lincoln since April 3, 2007. It wasn’t “economically viable” to Panera’s standards to keep it open, Parrish said. “We were able to offer positions to all of our existing associates in nearby Panera locations,” Parrish said. This past Monday, there were no signs on the doors saying the restaurant was closing. Some customers, such as Linda Haren and her daughter, Stacie Haren, on Monday were not aware that Panera was closing. “We’re not really happy,” Linda Haren said when she was told by The News Messenger that the restaurant was closing. “This is our favorite place to get together.” Stacie Haren said that there is “nothing to really replace it.” “I hope they give us something else comparable to the quality and pricing (of Panera)” Stacie Haren said. Some customers, including Kathy Vizzusi, have been aware of the closure for a few days and are taking a proactive approach to having the restaurant stay open. She and her husband, Rich Vizzusi, eat at Panera six days a week, and said they are “not happy” about the closure. “It’s going to be really hard to lose another restaurant,” Vizzusi said. “A lot of us used it a lot because it’s a nice soup, salad and sandwich place.” Other restaurants that have closed in Lincoln during the past 12 months include Applebee’s, Chili’s and Strings Italian Cafe. Vizzusi said she is trying to get as many residents as possible to send e-mails to Panera’s CEO, “hoping to change his mind” about the closure. “Everyone is like family,” Vizzusi said, adding that she and her husband “know everyone at Panera by name.” “It’s just really going to be strange not to have that sandwich and soup place to go to,” Vizzusi said. On the flip side, the McDonald’s on 3rd and G streets is thriving in this economy. Jake Mossawir, a spokesperson for McDonald’s restaurants in the Sacramento area, said the owners of the G Street McDonald’s “were nationally recognized in an advertisement this week in USA Today for their outstanding operations during Super Saturday.” Mark Ruiz and wife, Rosanna Ruiz, own the two McDonalds in town. He said Super Saturday in October was “a competition between McDonald’s stores.” The G Street McDonald’s finished in the “top two percent nationally for sales” for Super Saturday, according to Ruiz. Ruiz likened his success in both Super Saturday and in both of the Lincoln McDonald’s because he has “great people working for me,” and also credited the store managers at both locations. “They are just great. Both gals do a great job,” Mark Ruiz said. “We take care of our customers.” He also cited the dollar menu, value meals and mini-meals to their success. Saleswise, Ruiz said the store is doing “about the same from last year” and that the other Lincoln McDonald’s is “holding their own.” Their involvement in the community is another reason that the G Street McDonald’s is doing well, according to Mossawir. “The owners put a lot of effort,” he said. “They’ve put their lives into investing in not only their employees and the restaurant, but the community, too.” Mossawir also said that Mark and Rosanna Ruiz “set the tone by hiring the right people, and because of that, the community feels welcome,” and that the Ruizs do a “good job of helping the community.” So the question is, why is Panera floundering and McDonald’s thriving? Steve Art, economic and redevelopment manager for the city of Lincoln, gave a few reasons on why he thought one was doing better than the other. “It’s easier for people to get to McDonalds,” Art said Monday. “People can stop in for a quick bite but you have to know where Panera is.” It’s easier to get to McDonald’s, Art added, because of its “proximity to Highway 65” and that McDonald’s is “more family friendly.” According to Art, McDonald’s appeals more to younger children because of the play area and that Panera “caters more to adolescents and adults.” “We’re very sad to see them go,” Art said, adding that “maybe when the bypass opens” Panera or “someone else” would open in that location, because the bypass would make that location easier to reach.