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New eateries cater to mall's booming area

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  • | 5:00 a.m. November 4, 2014
The Panera Bread café and bakery at 215 N. Cattlemen Road is 4,100 square feet.
The Panera Bread café and bakery at 215 N. Cattlemen Road is 4,100 square feet.
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Area shoppers and workers have more dining options in East County.

Panera Bread opens its doors 7 a.m. Wednesday across the street from The Mall at University Town Center in a Benderson Development-owned plaza.

The 4,100-square-foot café and bakery at 215 N. Cattlemen Road sits in an outparcel of the District at University Park plaza next to Fidelity Investments. The plaza houses retailers such as Super Target, Stein Mart, Best Buy and Ulta.

It’s the seventh Panera Bread location for Harmony Food Services LLC, operator of the local Panera Bread franchise that now has three Sarasota locations, a Bradenton location, two locations in Texas and one in Louisiana.

Harmony Food Services LLC Operations Partner Michael Flawelling said the latest location is three years in the making and comes with some unique features patrons won’t find in other area Panera Bread locations.
“It’s our smallest Panera Bread, so utilizing every inch of space took some creativity,” Flawelling said. “It took some extra time to organize a well thought out café.”

What differs with this eatery, Flawelling said, is a unique outdoor privacy patio with wooden accents and a conference community room that seats approximately 20 people.

“The community room closes off from the rest of the restaurant and allows businesses and organizations to reserve the room for a business breakfast or lunch,” said Harmony Food Services Regional Catering Manager Felicia Baldwin.

The room comes equipped with a flat-screen television, different dining setup options and a conference telephone.

Meredith Buckelew, regional training manager for Harmony Food Services, said the restaurant has 60 employees that finished their training earlier this week.

Panera will be open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Culver’s adds second location

There will also be one more place to indulge when Culver’s opens its second restaurant location in the area in 2015.

It will be located on State Route 70, just east of Interstate 75 near the recently opened PDQ restaurant.

The first area Culver’s location, a 4,446-square foot restaurant, opened in June on University Parkway in Sarasota.

Paul Pittas, director of communications for Culver’s, said the franchise has been doing well since recently expanding in Florida.

The latest restaurant will have a similar footprint and feature approximately 100 seats and an outdoor patio.

The Koch family of Rockford, Ill., which has existing Culver’s locations in Illinois, owns the franchise rights to operate Culver’s restaurants in Sarasota and Bradenton.

Pittas said the wide range of transplanted Midwesterners made it easy for the Sauk City, Wisc.-based fast food restaurant to make an impact in the area.

“It’s not like we’re going into strange territory,” he said. “Florida has really opened its arms to Culver’s and treated us nicely. All of our restaurants have really done well there.”

Culver’s has 526 restaurants in 22 states. There are currently eight in Florida. Pittas said as many as 15 could open on Florida’s west coast in 2015 alone.

Pittas said a lot of the expansion comes from franchise owners looking to make their mark in another territory.

The S.R. 70 location will sit on 1.31 acres of land. A vacant condominium complex owned by Casvak River Club LLC, of Lakewood Ranch, currently sits on the property.

Culver’s specializes in hamburgers with butter and frozen custards.

Pittas said the company prides itself on service and hospitality.

“We hope that people who come to Culver’s have a great experience,” he said. “We have quality; it’s all fresh and cooked to order. You’ll see that Culver’s will become a real player in the area and our operators are very involved in their communities,” Pittas said.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].



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