More than a year after a push for healthier food closed the doors at a McDonald's on the Abbott Northwestern Hospital campus, the medical center in Minneapolis is on the verge of welcoming Panera Bread.
The St. Louis-based restaurant chain is scheduled to open a bakery/cafe by month's end, with a menu that includes a few modifications such as no sugared beverages, no fried foods and reduced portion sizes on some bakery items.
Panera will occupy virtually the same 6,100-square-foot space used by McDonald's, although it's been completely renovated, hospital officials said Friday in a statement to the Star Tribune.
"Abbott Northwestern will be the first hospital in Minnesota to open a Panera Bread on its campus," according to the statement. "Panera currently operates four hospital-based bakery cafes in three states."
The McDonald's at Abbott Northwestern opened in 1988. It closed in May 2016 as part of a push across the Minneapolis-based Allina Health System to promote healthier food choices.
Many hospitals in recent years have announced programs to reduce or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages in vending machines and fryers in hospital cafeterias. The decision came after several years of public pressure on Allina, which is the parent nonprofit for Abbott Northwestern, to close the McDonald's location, even though salads, yogurt, oatmeal and fruit had become standard offerings at the fast-food eatery.
"Ending the contract with McDonald's was consistent with Allina Health's mission to help people live their healthiest," the health system said Friday in a statement. "It has helped us create a culture where it's easy for people to make healthy food and beverage choices on our campuses."
The Panera Bread is scheduled to open Feb. 28. The hospital selected the restaurant chain after gathering survey responses from more than 2,500 people about their hopes for food options. Other food options at Abbott Northwestern include a cafeteria and small cafe off the main hospital lobby.