Panera courts college customers with perks during finals season

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Panera Bread is targeting college customers this finals season by extending the nighttime hours of its bakery-cafes near campuses and offering late-night crammers free coffee and baked goods.

The draws also extend to free highlighters, pencils, squeezable stress balls shaped like baguettes, and crayons for coloring in line sketches similar to those found in coloring books. Charging stations for phones, laptops and other devices are also provided, and Panera is touting several special playlists on Spotify that were curated with studiers in mind.

While cookies, muffins and other baked items are provided at no cost, students are encouraged to fuel their studies by buying something off the chain’s Brain Food Menu, a roster of protein-rich wraps, sandwiches,  salads, soup and beverages.

Patrons do not have to prove they’re students to qualify for the free items.

The college program is being phased in on a staggered basis to coincide with various schools’ finals periods. For instance, at least one store near Baylor University in Waco, Texas, will extend its hours to 6 a.m. starting tonight. George Washington University, in Washington, D.C., has alerted students through its newspaper that a local Panera will stay open to 2 a.m. starting tomorrow. Restaurants near both of the schools usually close at 10 p.m.

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