Early morning studiers rejoice — there’s a new bakery in town.
After months of renovations, the Au Bon Pain cafe and bakery opened Tuesday on the first floor of the Michigan Union. During its opening, the cafe served ready and custom-made sandwiches, salads and bakery items to a small crowd of students and Ann Arbor residents.
Michigan Union director Susan Pile said she was pleased with the opening day turnout, considering Tuesday’s sub-zero temperatures and not all students had moved back to campus. A student-centered opening day with free samples and performances will welcome more students on Jan. 16.
Au Bon Pain replaces the University Club, which opened in 1937 and closed this summer. Renovations, which began in late August and ended at the end of the Fall 2013 semester, were conducted to maintain the Union’s heritage while updating the space for modern students, Pile said.
Pile added that the University took care to ensure the new restaurant preserved the space’s character, including the University Club’s original entry arch and flooring.
“We were really intentional in working with the architects of Au Bon Pain that we didn’t want to take just their cookie cutter operation and put it here at Michigan,” Pile said.
To keep the space University focused, student photography of the campus is also featured in the restaurant.
Seating is in a room adjacent to the serving area and includes between booths, group seating and couches. This seating structure allows Au Bon Pain to be used as a study and gathering space for students.
“They heard us in honoring what is the Michigan Union and what is the tradition here, but updating it to make it more usable for student needs today,” Pile said.
Laura Seagram, marketing and communications specialist for the Union, said the space can accommodate a stage and be used for poetry slams, a capella shows and other student events. This Friday, Au Bon Pain will host a UMix Late Night event.
Pile said Au Bon Pain fits the needs of students with its variety of dietary options. A nutrition facts kiosk in the restaurant lists the full nutritional and allergy information of each menu item.
The fast casual restaurant has over 200 restaurants across the United States and internationally. The restaurant focuses on healthy fare at budget-friendly prices, general manager Tony Campeau said.
“Our concept is convenience and ease for our guests,” Campeau said. “The idea is that if you’re in a hurry, you can take a look at our signature sandwiches and salads in the refrigerated section or you can make them to order.”
Next door, constructors are working on the Starbucks that was originally slated to open in November. There is no new opening date for the coffee shop.
Au Bon Pain will be open daily in the Union and accepts Blue Bucks. Its hours Monday through Saturday. are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. The café has a 10-year lease on the space.