Panera Bread is the place to be

Olivia Bachar

Bloomington-Normal has two Panera Bread locations.
Photo: Getty Images

As a carless freshman from the Chicago suburbs, I know very little about the local eateries of Bloomington-Normal. However, I am glad to see that there are many familiar chain restaurants in the surrounding areas. 

Every once in a while, when I have the extra funds, I like to order from one of my favorites: Panera Bread. In my mind, it is an ultimate study spot for all broke and hungry college students alike. The food, the space itself and just the general vibes all make for an incredible combination.


The Food

  • Can be considered “fast food”- but lots of healthy choices, including vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. 
  • Highly customizable dishes, all with no artificial preservatives, sweeteners, flavors and no colors from artificial sources. 
  • Total nutrition transparency, easy to find nutrition labels and ingredient lists, especially helpful for those with food allergies/sensitivities or on specialty diets. 
  • Breakfast, including souffles and sandwiches, served until 10:30 am, as well as their signature bagels served all day.
  • Personal favorites of mine include the Modern Caprese sandwich, the classic Chicken Caesar salad, and the seasonal Autumn Squash soup. 


The Deals

  • MyPanera, the free rewards program that gives out free desserts, drinks and coupons after varying amounts of visits. 
  • Also, free pastry or cookie for up to a week after your birthday, I love the seasonally shaped sugar cookies, right now they have Valentine’s Day heart cookies. 
  • MyPanera+ Coffee, the first three months are free, then for only $8.99 a month, you can get unlimited coffee every single day of the month. 
  • There are always various coupons available both online and in-house, including delivery and pick up, meaning you can get more “bang for your buck.”
  • The You-Pick-Two option, your choice of any two entrees and a side, two regular sized meals for you or to share with a friend. 
  • Small & large size options- one smaller serving from the small option,one larger serving or two smaller servings from the large option. 


The Space

  • Variety of seating options, from singular booths and four-top tables to large, banquet style areas for larger groups of customers. 
  • Private room available to rent, perfect for meetings and/or extra large study groups (when COVID regulations allow for them again of course).
  • Panera is not known for being a “hustling and bustling” kind of place, typically it is a calm and somewhat quiet environment. 
  • Free, consistently solid wifi and internet connection means no worrying about eating up precious data on any of your electronic devices. 
  • A plethora of outlets are scattered throughout the restaurant, bring a charger and boom, infinite battery life for your time there. 


The Vibes

  • Panera has its own music playlist, sometimes filled with upbeat pop, other times smooth jazz, as well as the occasional lofi hip hop beat. 
  • Cozy and homey, a combination that makes for a relaxing and comfortable environment for all to enjoy. 
  • Picky and non-picky eaters get to feel welcome here, no matter how loaded or plain they enjoy their sandwiches and other foods to be. 
  • The mouthwatering scents of fresh baked breads, pastries and cookies sneak their way from the kitchen into your nose, even through our masks. 
  • Genuinely nice people work there, they will offer you instant replacements or even comped meals if a single thing is off with your experience. 


If you are looking for a new study spot with decently priced food, diverse seating and good vibes, check out Panera Bread!

Please note: this article is not in any way sponsored by Panera Bread, though that would be really cool. I am just a simple, yet passionate lover of Panera.