More than five years later, the planned Panera Bread location on Rt. 72 in Manahawkin became a reality today.

We told you to be patient, but I had no idea you would have to be this patient.

As we reported before, pointed out that the Stafford Township Planning Board first considered the plans to open this franchise at 434 Route 72 Manahawkin in October 2017.

Yes...2017! Over five years have gone by that I've waited for a new go-to spot for my favorite Panera Bread soup.

In 2019, the Asbury Park Press wrote that Parsi Inventments, Inc. had submitted applications to build a Chick-fil-A restaurant and a Panera Bread restaurant on a 5-acre parcel of land on an Rt. 72 site was once home to a bank and an office complex but has now been sitting empty for several years.

The proposal called for the construction of a 5,262-square-foot Chick-fil-A restaurant with 114 seats and a 4,833-square-foot Panera Bread restaurant — both with drive-thrus.

Chick-Fil-A opened on March 17, 2022, and, today, Panera Bread is open for business in Stafford Township

So, what took so long? That explanation isn't easy to find, but suffice it to say that the pandemic didn't speed things up.

Regardless, Panera Bread officially opened today, with drive-thru service, dine-in, and delivery available.

Panera Bread is open Mon-Sat from 6 am - 9 pm, and Sunday 7 am - 9 pm.

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