Panera Bread franchisee Randy Simon working on drive-throughs

WICHITA — More than one diner has bemoaned the lack of drive-throughs at Wichita’s Panera Bread restaurants, but Randy Simon would like to change that.

The franchisee is working with neighbors and the city to add a drive-through at his Panera at 1605 N. Rock Road, which he thinks he might be able to do by February.

Panera has retrofitted about 90 of its stores with drive-throughs. The first was in Missouri several years ago, and the chain tested it for a couple of years before expanding to other Paneras.

Simon says his first drive-through retrofit was eight months ago in Independence, Mo.

“It has increased the sales and not distracted from the execution of the concept.”

He built his Derby Panera with a drive-through, but Simon now has to figure out a way to make the additions work at his other Paneras.

He’s talking with his landlord at his Panera near Central and Hillside.

“There seems to be just a little glimmer of a possibility that we could do something with that store,” Simon says. “Basically, it’s almost like creating a second restaurant.”

He says the drive-throughs require a second food line and their own full-time employees.

Simon, who plans further development of other businesses around his Panera near Maple and Ridge Road, also is studying how to do a drive-through there.

“I’d like to figure out a way before I trap myself in.”

A drive-through is less hopeful for the NewMarket Square Panera because of the way the building sits.

“That one would be difficult,” Simon says.

Still, he’s open to trying to make the drive-throughs work because he says they’ll benefit his business and customers as well.

“There’s going to be very little negative impact that can result from this.”