Panera restaurants around the nation kicked off the summer with two salad menu additions this year.

Panera punches up summer menu with new salads

Courtesy Panera Bread Co.

Panera's Strawberry Poppyseed & Chicken Salad is back on its summer seasnal menu in 2010. It features fresh strawberries and fresh blueberries, as well as romaine lettuce and pecans.

One — the Strawberry Poppyseed & Chicken Salad — was a returner for the St. Louis-based chain. The Tomato, Mozzarella & Basil Salad is brand new in 2010.

The Strawberry Poppyseed & Chicken Salad is topped with four fruit items, two of which—strawberries and blueberries — are sourced fresh. It also features pineapple, Mandarin oranges, pecans and chicken on a bed of romaine lettuce.

The salad, which comes tossed in a fat-free Poppyseed dressing, has fewer than 300 calories.

The company only offers the salad during the summer, when the ingredients are most flavorful, according to a company news release.

“It’s hard to say no to a customer, but when we do, it’s because we have their best interests and taste buds in mind,” said Dan Kish, head chef, in the release. “We only offer the salad when its star ingredients — the fresh strawberries and blueberries — are at their peak of ripeness.”

Panera punches up summer menu with new salads

Courtesy Panera Bread Co.

For Panera's Tomato, Mozzarella & Basil Salad, the restaurant chain increased the frequency of its tomato shipments to its restaurants to hone in on a certain stage of ripeness.

With the Tomato, Mozzarella & Basil Salad, Panera wanted to take advantage of Americans’ craving for fresh summer tomatoes, according to the release. The company arranged for more frequent deliveries of its tomatoes to make sure they are at a more specific stage of ripeness for this salad, according to the release.

Tomatoes are combined with cucumbers, basil and onions, marinated in a tangy balsamic vinaigrette, and then served with fresh mozzarella, field greens and romaine lettuce. It is then topped with Asiago cheese croutons, coarse sea salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil.

In addition to its staple menu items, Panera launches new items for each season of the year. Its fall menu should be in stores by Sept. 16, by which time the summer salad will be off the menu, said Meghan Anderson, marketing.