I don't know if you are still experiencing problems connecting to the WiFi at Panera locations, but if you (or anyone else) are, I think I can help. I work in the tech support department for the company that handles the hotspots for Panera.
From what you said, it sounds like you are using a third party wireless utility to configure network settings. Using such utilities to connect to our networks does have a tendency to cause problems. Not sure if it always does, but every time I have talked to someone using a third party utility - particularly the Dell utility - that was the source of the problem.
Best thing I would suggest is to disable that utility and let Windows configure the network connection. To do that, go to the start menu, select run, and type in services.msc and hit enter. This will bring up the Services window. Scroll down to the bottom and you should see Wireless Zero Configuration down towards the end of the list. Right click it and select properties. Set Startup type to Automatic. Click Apply. Then, just to be safe, click the Start button on that properties window if the process has not already started. This should override the third party utility and allow you to connect using the default Windows utility.
If you want to allow the Windows utility to manage the connection all the time, it's pretty simple. Just go to My Network Places, select View Network Connections (tasks on the left - if you for some reason cannot see the task list on the left just go to network connections in the control panel), right click the Wireless connection and select Properties. There should be an option to "Use Windows to configure my wireless settings" that you should check. Click Apply, click OK, and you should be good to go!
If you are still encountering problems connecting, however, the number listed above is for the tech support line and we will be glad to help you out.
PS: Anyone else planning on going to a Panera for the WiFi, keep this in mind! It can save you some frustration.
Edited by Ehlmaris, 28 October 2008 - 11:51 PM.