Thanks to City Council action local Panera Bread customers soon will be able to get their favorite sandwich or breakfast bagel via a drive-thru window.
Ron Ward, owner of the Springcreek Village Shopping Center, would like to add a drive-thru window at the Panera Bread cafe on the northeast corner of 15th Street and Bryant Avenue.
During Monday evening’s City Council meeting, city planner Bob Schiermeyer said the land to the east, owned by the Ramsey family, is zoned “A Single Family” and when there is a sensitive border condition, even when the single family property is projected for higher usage in the Edmond Plan, a specific use permit is required for a drive-thru window.
Schiermeyer said that in a letter the Ramsey family stated they have no objection to Panera’s plans.
No parking spaces are being removed and the city code requirement for four or more spaces provided for a queing lane for the drive-thru window also is met. Schiermeyer said customers leaving the window would then drive behind the retail structures.
Schiermeyer said the retaining wall on the east will be realigned to allow for pick up window traffic and for service and emergency vehicles to have adequate lane width for access. Schiermeyer said the Fire Department has approved this part of the plan.
The moved back retaining wall will look similar to the way it does now, and the driving space will exceed the required minimum width, Ward said.
When the property was developed about 15 years ago, developers received one of the most restrictive planned unit developments, Ward said. But a potential drive-thru window was not restricted.
Ward said he spent a lot of time with Panera during peak traffic times discussing how this would improve flow and not create more congestion. Ward said the current customer experience is not as positive as parties want it to be.
“We think we’ve come up with a solution that actually enhances the customer experience, not causes a problem with congestion,” Ward said.
Ronnie Hart, director of construction and special projects for Panera Bread, said when the company started planning for the project about a year ago, it struggled with the parking issues on the south side. Hart said the franchise always has explored ways to serve guests better.
On average, it takes a customer about 15 minutes to park a car, enter a Panera cafe and get their order, Hart said. On average, Panera locations with drive-thru windows do about 30 percent of their business there, Hart said.
“It’s more of a convenience for our guests,” he said.
The idea behind the drive-thru is to free up parking for everybody, Hart said. The plan calls for a separate drive-thru kitchen focused on getting people through the line and on with their day, Hart said.
Hart said new online ordering also speeds up the amount of time customers spend at cafe’s with drive-thru windows.
During discussion on the issue, several council members said they patronize the location, where the parking lot is often nearly filled. Councilwoman Elizabeth Waner said she took time earlier in the process to observe the lunch-hour traffic flow.
Waner voiced concerns about traffic flow issues including inadequate maneuvering space in the parking lot.
“We want you to be successful,” Waner told Ward and a Panera representative in the room.
Edmond Neighborhood Alliance President Walter Jenny said he doesn’t want a situation where drive-thru customers are backed up into the street. He said he opposes the proposal due to his congestion concerns.
Edmond financial adviser Bill Trammell, who offices across the street, said he patronizes Panera often and believes the customer experience will be enhanced by the addition.
Waner moved to approve the motion with a strong emphasis on appropriate direction signage. Members approved the motion 5-0.
Last month, the Planning Commission considered a specific use permit for a drive-thru window and commercial site plan approval for the Panera Bread addition. The motion for approval was denied by a 3-2 vote. Mark Hoose, Barry Moore and Rob Rainey voted against the permit.
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