Drive-thru window to bring jobs, convenience

By Keisha Howerth

DeKalb’s Panera Bread location anticipates a June opening for a drive-thru window.

Panera Bread, 2476 Sycamore Road, hopes to provide customers with more convenience with this addition to the bakery-café.

Hamra Enterprises owns and operates 33 Panera Bread locations in the greater Chicago area. Eve Metheny, director of brand marketing for Hamra Enterprises, said there’s been no confirmation when construction will begin.

“The drive-thru will be added onto the back of the building,” Metheny said. “It will take up the empty lot next to Subway.”

There will be no construction within the bakery-café, but 300 square feet will be added to the east backside of the existing building. Retrofitting the building has been done at other Panera locations.

Metheny said the drive-thru addition will also give more job opportunities in DeKalb.

“We would need to hire more people to operate the drive-thru window,” Metheny said.

City Council approved zoning changes for the building last fall, and there were only a few issues with parking and traffic that needed to be addressed before the approval.

“[The City Council] wanted to be certain flow of traffic would be fine,” said Mayor John Rey.

Second ward alderman Bill Finucane said City Council also had an aesthetic issue with the drive-thru.

“One concern was where they’d put waste disposal containers,” Finucane said. “We don’t want them visible from Sycamore Road.”

Finucane said the addition of the drive-thru will help sales at Panera Bread because it will be easier and faster for customers to get their food.

“Panera is a good commercial resident,” Finucane said. “We’re happy to help.”

Metheny said Panera will give away an incentive to the first few customers to use the drive-thru to celebrate its opening.

“We’ll do something along the lines of giving the 50 first customers to use the drive-thru a travel mug,” Metheny said. “We’ll send out a press release with specifics as we come closer to the opening.”