Gainesville is opening its first drive-thru Panera Bread later this year.
Megan Sones, a marketing coordinator for Panera Bread, said the restaurant is opening on Newberry Road in front of what used to be Stein Mart.
“We’re hoping to have it open by July of this year,” she said. “We put it up actually very quickly.”
The marketing team has been looking at locations for the last year, and she said the spot seemed perfect for the city.
“There’s definitely a lot of people in Gainesville,” Sones said. “To get from Archer (Road) to Newberry (Road) can take 30 minutes if there’s heavy traffic.”
Ordering via the drive-thru would take about the same amount of time as ordering in the restaurant, she said.
Sones said she expects a mixture of university students and residents to visit the new location.
“It’s right by the hospital, but it’s also by the mall, and then there’s all these apartments behind it,” she said. “I think we are going to have a nice mixture.”
City of Gainesville planning manager Ralph Hilliard said it took two months to approve a permit for the building.
“We review the plans to make sure they are consistent with our land development code,” he said, “and then (when) they’re consistent and get approved, they apply for their building permit.”
Sabrina Heck, a 19-year-old UF English freshman, said she thinks the drive-thru option will help alleviate the lines at the Archer Road location.
“That Panera always gets really crowded,” she said. “There are a lot of times where you can’t find a place to sit.”
[A version of this story ran on page 5 on 3/18/2014 under the headline "Drive-thru Panera Bread location to open on Newberry Road"]