Stop me if you've heard this before.

Published reports say that we are getting closer to the opening of Panera Bread and Chick-fil-A restaurants on Rt. 72 in Manahawkin.

Forgive me if I have a wait-and-see attitude about this, but I have heard this song before. points out that the Stafford Township Planning Board first considered plans to open these two franchises on the westbound side of Rt. 72 in October of 2017.

Yes...2017! Over four years have gone by and I am still waiting 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 which was once been 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.

So, what happened to the restaurants?

That explanation isn't so easy to find, but suffice to say that the pandemic didn't exactly speed things up.

What is different now? Well, construction is now finally underway on the two franchises, and although that doesn't mean their grand openings are imminent, it's certainly a good sign.

Meantime, I am still not-so-patiently waiting for my Panera bread broccoli cheddar soup.

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