Posted by Shirley Brady on January 13, 2011 04:00 PM
Panera Bread Co. will open its third "pay what you want" cafe on Monday, marking its third such endeavor — and test of the public's integrity. Panera Cares is billed as a community cafe concept, and a non-profit arm of the US restaurant chain. Its new cafe in Portland, Oregon, follows launches last year in Clayton, Missouri, and Dearborn, Michigan.
"In some ways it is a test for humanity," Panera founder Ron Shaich tells AP. "Will people step up and help each other or will they take advantage?" So far, yes. About 20% of visitors to the first two locations leave more than the suggested amount, 20% leave less and 60% pay the suggested amount.
Proceeds from the local, non-profit experiment — which relaunches existing Panera Bread locations — are funneled back into each operation and the local community. Area residents are invited to volunteer, particularly if they can't afford to pay, in return for a meal. "This is not about a handout," Shaich says. "This is about a hand up, and every one of us has a need for that at some point in our lives."
"It’s nice to see a nationwide country open its arms to the less fortunate and there’s a sense of pride that it’s happening in your own neighborhood," a Portland blogger comments. " I really hope that the program is as success and others take notice."