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Panera gears up to open cafe in Fresh Pond Mall

Panera Bread Co., a Missouri-based chain of roughly 1,650 barkery cafes, is gearing up for the official opening of a new location at Fresh Pond Mall in Cambridge.

Official opening day is Friday for a 4,000-square-foot store with 90 indoor seats, a fireplace, and free Wi-Fi Internet access. The cafe will have a staff of up to 65 employees. And a full catering menu will be offered.

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According to Panera, its identity is rooted in “handcrafted, freshly-baked, artisan bread.” Nearly all of the chain’s cafes have menus highlighted by antibiotic-free chicken, whole grain bread, and select organic and all-natural ingredients, with zero grams of artificial trans-fat per serving, the company says.

Company chairman and co-chief executive Ron Shaich lives in Brookline, and the new Cambridge cafe will be the chain’s 55th location in Massachusetts.

The chain was in the news recently for opening a Panera Cares cafe near Boston City Hall. According to Shaich, the idea is to provide a community cafe where everyone can eat with dignity regardless of their ability to pay. It’s the first of its kind in Boston. The chain has a handful of Panera Cares cafes across the the country.

The chain is made up of stores owned by the company and stores owned by franchisees.

Average weekly sales for company-owned new bakery-cafes for full year fiscal 2012 was a record $47,029 compared with $41,637 in full year fiscal 2011. Average weely sales for franchise-operated new bakery-cafes for full year fiscal 2012 was a record $46,781 compared with $41,438 in full year fiscal 2011, Panera recently reported.

Chris Reidy can be reached at reidy@globe.com.
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