Panera Bread's Sandwich Showdown is going on from now through Sat., Oct. 6., and it's a bit different than in previous years.

The contest has always been a popular local event, usually attracting a couple hundred contestants. But last year, participation reached new heights, with 800 recipe submissions and 18,000 online votes being cast to determine the final five contestants.

"That really told us that this is something people enjoy," says Panera regional marketing director Kelli Nicholson. So this year, the contest has been opened up to Panera customers nationwide, and there are new additions to help contestants get creative, like an online sandwich builder.

Another aspect of the competition that has been expanded is the prize package. This year's winner will go home with $10,000 in cash, $500 in Panera gift cards, free bagels for a year and the chance to see his or her masterpiece on menus across the country.

Details on the showdown are available at tlc.com/panera.

Panera Bread, multiple locations, panerabread.com


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