LIVERMORE -- The long-awaited bakery-cafe chain Panera Bread opened Nov. 26, reeling in more than 1,500 customers in one day.

According to store manager Mike Sanchez, the demand for the restaurant's fresh-baked bread and soups -- spurred by a recent cold snap -- has only increased over its first full week of operation. Sanchez said he's been forced to hand out refunds to customers due to a lack of seating.

"It's been crazy all week," Sanchez said Friday. "A lot of people don't even know we're open yet."

Moving into half of the old Chevy's Fresh Mex building at 4685 First St., the Livermore location joins several others in the East Bay, including Hayward, Dublin and San Ramon.

It will soon have a much-anticipated neighbor in Chipotle, which is expected to open next door in the same building sometime in late winter or early spring.

Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.

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