Au Bon Pain Adapts to Increased Popularity On Campus
UD’s Au Bon Pain (cover photo), on the first floor of KU, is one of the chain’s most popular locations nationwide. Courtesy of Hannah Heil
Au Bon Pain is unarguably one of the most popular dining locations on the University of Dayton’s campus.
Hundreds of hungry students and faculty members choose the small French bakery, located on the first floor of Kennedy Union, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Customers can expect long lines and overcrowding, especially at the shop’s peak lunch hour, as individuals struggle to walk across the shop from the entrance to the sandwich line.
It is natural to think this creates challenges for Au Bon Pain staff and customers. One might wonder how the small bakery deals with constant demand, and if it has plans to combat this issue in the future. The problem could be expected to worsen as UD’s student population is steadily on the rise.
Caleb Monnin, assistant manager of Au Bon Pain, sat down to share how Au Bon Pain manages such a high level of demand.
When Au Bon Pain opened at the University of Dayton in 2017, it was not expected to be as popular as it is today, Monnin said. About half of the existing business today was expected. The high-unforeseen level of customers could have caused significant problems, but the bakery promptly adapted.
However, the toughest challenge lies not in overcrowding, but staffing, Monnin said. Because Au Bon Pain relies heavily on student employees, it can be hard for students to maintain a consistent work schedule with different class schedules, course work and holiday breaks.
While it may not be the most significant problem, overcrowding still remains a pressing issue for the bakery. Au Bon Pain’s managers use a regimented plan to prepare for high consumer demand, because nothing can be done to expand the small floor plan of the bakery. Monnin acknowledged the bakery gets crowded usually at peak hours of time, which are anticipated by the staff.
Au Bon Pain’s typical peak hours are between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. There is back stock in all of the coolers during these hours and a higher number of staff members on the job. Backup coffee is on the line and there is a par level maintained all day. Au Bon Pain keeps a set par level, and employees re-stock to get the number back to the set level once it has been depleted.
The daily 15-minute breaks between classes cause Au Bon Pain to get busy in 15-minute increments, but the pastry case is stocked before the rush. Workers attempt to stay out of the way during these times and re-stock the shelves afterward. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with shorter 50-minute class times, the bakery experiences the most crowding in between classes.
Monnin explained that Au Bon Pain is aware of the university’s class schedule and uses it to manage the overcrowding, as well as to plan for each day. Au Bon Pain employees also are given breaks based on the class schedule. Consumer demand is heavy during lunch hour, but it takes a slight decrease around dinner hours. The pace moves a little slower and the management during this time is not as regimented.
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Students may (or may not) be surprised to find Au Bon Pain at the University of Dayton is one of the most popular franchise locations in the U.S.
According to Monnin, it is a top-tier bakery location, ranking in the top 25%. At UD, Au Bon Pain experiences approximately 2,000 transactions a day. The bakery measures its consumer demand based on transactions, not number of customers, because one person may come through three times a day—breakfast, lunch and dinner.
When comparing the layout and overall management of Au Bon Pain at UD to other locations, the shop must be in line with national standards. Managers went to Pittsburgh for training to learn standard management procedures and how to implement the same management as all other Au Bon Pain locations.
For example, the signage must be identical in all Au Bon Pain bakeries. Most Au Bon Pain bakeries are located at schools and universities, so there is not much difference.
The bakery does have some leeway, however, and has made changes since first opening in 2017.
First, the staffing has incrementally increased. Au Bon Pain was able to adjust and add more employees to its staff with a growing number of customers. The managers also had to ensure there were a sufficient number of products, leading them to gradually increase supply.
Also, to coincide with UD’s initiative to become a sustainable campus, Au Bon Pain has added compostable products to its inventory since first opening.
Looking to the future, Au Bon Pain has a test kitchen to experiment with potential additions to the menu. The menu is consistently in flux with the seasons, allowing for new food options each spring, summer, autumn and winter season. As autumn prepares to transition into winter, one might recognize there is no longer a BBQ sandwich on the menu, but customers can anticipate the addition of the Turkey Bacon Melt.
When asked the most gratifying part of being a manager, Monnin expressed that the daily feeling of success from the customers’ satisfaction makes a hard day’s work worthwhile. He also noted the sense of companionship among the staff and employees. For example, customers are encouraged to join members of Au Bon Pain’s staff in singing “Happy Birthday” to their colleagues.
The lines may be an extra bit long and a limited number of spots may be available at the soup station, but customers can leave Au Bon Pain with a smile. Monnin emphasized that the hard work the employees put in, as well as the constant energy and positivity of the staff, makes Au Bon Pain a special place to eat.
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