panera construction
Jayme Sileo / Nevada Sagebrush
Construction in the Fitzgerald Building as it stands on Monday, Nov. 5. Forklift will move to the Overlook when The Den is built in mid-November.

Construction has begun on Forklift Burritos and Bowls last week to make way for what will soon be Panera Bread Cafe and Bakery.

The first Panera Bread to open in the Reno and the Northern-Nevada area will be in the Fitzgerald Student Services building where Forklift and Smoked BBQ previously resided. Panera Bread is expected to open late January 2020. 

Although Forklift will no longer be inside Fitzgerald, it will still remain on campus. The Den, a new dining option opening on south campus will give the opportunity for the Eatery at the Overlook to be turned back into a food court where Forklift will find a home. 

“We thought it would be a good fit,” said Cody Begg, Resident District Manager of Nevada Dining. “We use our E-15 study so we study the market. We do what we call social listening and various analysis and Panera, as a brand, matched what we were trying to accomplish on campus […].”

Begg expects Panera Bread to provide more options for students closer to the south end of campus.

“We proposed Panera as a viable solution for some of the needs and desires on campus,” Begg said. “So, we reached out to our long standing partner, Panera, and they agreed to build their first Panera in Reno on campus.”

Nevada Dining chose Panera Bread because it was popular among the voices of market research. 

“[…] Right now, we are finishing what’s known as our ‘Voice-to-Vision’ survey where we survey students, faculty, staff, residents and  non-residents all on campus,” said Heidi Rich, Marketing Director for Dining Services. “One of the questions that’s part of that… survey is ‘What brands would you like to see on campus?’ […]” 

The data from the survey was collected and incorporated into a proposal saying the campus community was wanting Panera Bread on campus.

“[We] basically gave what the campus community had voiced as one of the brands that they’d like to see brought to campus and then just built that into our next ten years and that was accepted,” Rich said.

This restaurant will include a meal trade for those who have purchased a plan for next semester, though the specifics of what is included in that plan as far as menu options is not yet available. 

Sarah Strang can be reached at or on Twitter @sarahstrang100.