First Picks Management opened Santa Barbara’s first Panera Bread eatery last weekend in La Cumbre Plaza on upper State Street.
The popular restaurant chain serves freshly baked breads and offers a mostly organic menu in 1,500 locations nationwide. FPM, a business development organization founded in 2006, partnered with the sandwich franchise to operate its Southern California stores.
According to ESPN broadcaster and First Picks Management CEO Keyshawn Johnson, the restaurant chain mirrors the area’s coastal vibe.
“Panera Bread is a brand that fits so well with the California lifestyle,” Johnson said in an email. “Good food, great ingredients, exceptional customer service in a relaxed atmosphere. You cannot get more ‘California’ than that. I am from here and this is my home. I feel like I know what people here are looking for on an everyday basis and Panera Bread meets that need.”
Fourth-year global studies major Jeffery Tsai said Panera will offer students a new alternative to Isla Vista’s dining options.
“I like pretty much everything they have,” Tsai said. “The soups, the salads and especially their breads are really good. I have wondered before why they did not have one here but I am really glad Santa Barbara has got a Panera now. I will definitely eat there; it is a nice occasional change from I.V. food that you do not have to venture too far for.”
According to FPM Managing Director Ingrid Roberts, Southern Californian Panera customers will see seasonal favorites at the new storefront earlier than in other locations throughout the country.
“Panera Bread offers a very popular Strawberry Poppy Seed Salad during the brand’s Summer Celebration Menu time frame. Here on the Central Coast, we experience strawberry harvest time much earlier than the rest of the country, and the area is known for its strawberry festivals and celebrations,” Roberts said, “As a result, our Southern California franchisees offer this customer-favorite several weeks earlier than the rest of the country.”
The Panera Bread franchise will feature free Wi-Fi and plans to expand further into the Santa Barbara area as space becomes available, according to Roberts.