Panera Bread on North Rock Road to temporarily close to install drive-through

WICHITA — It may not have happened by spring as he hoped, but Randy Simon is now about to add a drive-through at his Panera Bread at 1605 N. Rock Road.

The restaurant is going to close from Monday until July 22 to make the addition along with interior remodeling.

Derby is the only other Wichita-area Panera with a drive-through so far.

Simon says he’s in the process of submitting plans to do a drive-through at the Panera at Taft and Ridge.

He’s just finished remodeling the Panera near Central and Hillside, which wasn’t able to have a drive-through.

“We just were not able to work the necessary arrangemetns out with Walgreens,” Simon says.

Nor is it possible to have a drive-through at the NewMarket Square Panera. Simon says it’s possible he could consider new sites when his leases are close to expiring at centers where he can’t add drive-throughs, but it’s something he’d have to carefully ponder.

“They’re both really good stores,” he says. Also, Simon says building Paneras from the ground up is getting harder to do because of cost.

“It’s getting to be kind of tricky.”

Each of his Wichita-area Paneras eventually will have Panera’s new rapid pick-up system, which allows diners to have credit cards tied to their Panera cards so they can place online orders without having to wait in lines to pay for their food once they arrive. The Derby Panera is the only local Panera to have the system so far.

Simon says a new Panera with a drive-through will open at College and King in Overland Park by the end of August. A few weeks later, he and his Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers partners — his brother, Bill, and Scott Redler – will open a Freddy’s next door to the Panera.

They also purchased a former Backyard Burgers at 151st and I-35 in Olathe and a former Asian restaurant in front of Sam’s Club in the 5000 block of North Oak in Kansas City, Mo., with plans to convert them to Freddy’s restaurants.

Freddy’s received some great national press in the most recent issue of Consumer Reports, which Simon says he and his partners of course couldn’t help but notice.

“Are you kidding? We read it five or six times.”

The report is on the country’s top – and bottom – fast-food restaurants. With a 7.7 rating for its hamburgers, Freddy’s wasn’t far behind leaders the Habit Burger Grill, with an 8.1 rating, and In-N-Out Burger, with an 8 rating. Freddy’s scored highly in other areas as well, such as cleanliness.

Simon says the numbers are especially impressive since most of the chain’s 118 stores are concentrated in this part of the country.

“We don’t quite have the national footprint that a lot of companies do.”