McDonald's Vacates High-Profile Space Next to Vanderbilt Hospital

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Long-running, frequently useful but never universally beloved, the McDonald's next to Vanderbilt's hospital has closed for good.

As I reported on Bites and Nashville Post, Vanderbilt is in the midst of a healthy food push for its employees, hospital visitors and outpatients, and as part of that effort chose to say goodbye to McDonald's when the lease ran out at the end of January. Instead, another national chain, Boston-based Au Bon Pain, will take the high-profile spot. (Officials said they looked at a lot of options, including keeping McDonald's, but found Au Bon Pain the most accommodating in offering nutritional info — via interactive kiosks — and helping feed the hungry VU hordes in other ways, like accepting phone orders and doing catering on campus.)

So now the Golden Arches have gone dim, but instead of a new cafe opening in February, as originally planned, it looks like renovations will take longer — Au Bon Pain won't open its full-service location until June. On Friday, VUMC spokesman John Howser outlined temporary measures to handle the voracious volume during the four-month gap.

For one thing, Au Bon Pain is opening a smaller interim outpost, with “grab-and-go” sandwiches and such, in the lobby of Light Hall by late February.

By far the most fun temporary measure is a heated tent setting up on Medical Center Plaza to serve hot dogs and hamburgers.

Back in September, VUMC officials stressed that the change wasn't intended as a criticism of McDonald's (and, we presume, especially not Ronald). “This isn’t any sort of attempt to single out McDonald’s,” Howser said. “McDonald’s has been a great partner, lo these many years.”

As for concerns that Au Bon Pain's menu of soups, salads, sandwiches, bagels and French-inspired pastries will be more expensive than McDonald's, Howser said Au Bon Pain has different pricing tiers for different markets and pledged to keep prices "competitive" with the burger chain.

I guess we'd all be used to major McDonald's withdrawal if we lived in Iceland. Every Mickey D's on that rugged but tech-loving island closed three months ago after the collapse of the Icelandic krona.

Since Bites Nation seems interested in the world of McD (good, cheap coffee, we hear), I'll share this gloomy video tour of the final days of a McDonald's in Reykjavik:

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