It's been a long time coming, but Panera Bread finally has opened its newest bakery-cafe on Post Road East.

The 129-seat eatery opened July 8 at 1860 Post Road East in the Westport Plaza near the town's border with Fairfield.

The store won local planning and zoning approval nearly a year ago and had initially planned to open in October. The date later was moved back to spring, but construction issues in converting the former nail salon into a restaurant caused further delays, the company said.

The nearly 5,000-square-foot store has 33 employees and is open even days a week from breakfast through mid- to late-evening, depanding on the day, the company said.

Its breakfast menu includes breakfast sandwiches, bagels and a variety of pastries baked in the store. The main menu includes soups, sandwiches and salads. The cafe also has a children's menu.

The bakery also sells a variety of artisan and specialty breads by the loaf.

In addition to 105 interior seats, the store has another 24 seats in what the company called an "all-season patio" with windows that slide open in pleasant weather.

One of the company's signature policies is to donate unsold baked goods at the end of each day to an organization that serves the needy. Panera said it was working with the Connecticut Food Bank to identify a partner that would receive the food.

When it announced plans for the Westport store last year, Panera said it was part of a plan to expand its brand in Fairfield County -- including new stores in Fairfield and Norwalk.

The St. Louis-based chain said it operates more than 1,600 company-owned and franchise-operated stores in 40 states and Ontario, Canada.

Panera Bread, 1860 Post Road East in the Westport Plaza. Phone: 203-225-0849. Hours: Mondays to Thursdays, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sundays, 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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