Construction set to begin on Panera Bread, Olive Garden and Papa Murphy’s at Derby Marketplace

WICHITA — It was back in January that Have You Heard? first reported that Panera Bread franchisee Randy Simon was in negotiations to open a Panera in front of the Dillons Marketplace at Derby Marketplace at 71st and Rock Road.

The Derby City Council approved the deal last week, and construction is set to begin.

Simon plans a fall opening for the restaurant, which will have a drive-through. This is the 32nd cafe for his Original Bread and the first to feature a drive-through.

Later this month, Simon says he plans to finalize a deal in Sedalia, Mo., for another Panera with a drive-through. That’s also where a Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers franchisee plans a Freddy’s next door.

The Panera that opened earlier this year on Ridge Road next to the Freddy’s that Simon co-owns had the highest volume opening of all of Simon’s Wichita Paneras.

Back in Derby, there are a couple of other new restaurants that will open near the new Panera.

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Olive Garden deal in the works for Derby

WICHITA — All of a sudden, it seems like Derby is getting a lot more dining options.

In addition to Panera Bread likely going in at Derby Marketplace, it looks like the Olive Garden has a deal in the works there as well.

There’s no official word on the Italian chain coming to Derby, but look for news soon.

LongHorn Steakhouse eyes Wichita for sites

longhornWICHITA — It looks like the 29th and Maize area is continuing to attract restaurants.

Tuesday, Panda Express confirmed it’s putting an almost 3,000-square-foot restaurant to the north of the Lowe’s driveway near where several other restaurants opened this year.

Now, it looks like LongHorn Steakhouse is eyeing the area.

There are 334 LongHorn Steakhouses in 31 states — 32 with the addition of Iowa next month.

The chain, which plans to open about 25 new restaurants this year, is “kind of progressing west,” says spokesman Rich Jeffers.

There are several LongHorn Steakhouses on the eastern side of the state, including one that’s coming to Manhattan.

Jeffers won’t say if Wichita is slated to get the restaurant. He says the company typically only confirms a restaurant is opening after construction starts.

Orlando-based Darden Restaurants, which also owns Red Lobster and Olive Garden among other brands, acquired LongHorn Steakhouse in 2007.

“It is a steakhouse that is kind of designed in a very upscale, casual design motif, if you will,” Jeffers says.

When the first LongHorn Steakhouse opened in 1981, it was more of a peanuts-on-the-floor kind of place.

“It’s evolved,” Jeffers says. Today, it’s “a little bit more sophisticated dining room.”

Since the LongHorn Steakhouse in Manhattan is already announced but still won’t open until early 2011, don’t look for one in Wichita in the immediate future.

We’ll keep you posted if and when a deal happens.