Panera Bread adding more pay-what-you-want cafes

“Take what you need, leave your fair share” is the concept behind Panera Bread Co.’s three pay-what-you-want cafes.

And the experiment seems to be working. The bakery and restaurant chain, with more than 1,400 stores  nationwide, plans to open two more such eateries this year, the company announced Thursday.

It’s the chain’s way of helping feed the hungry in a dignified way and its been good for business overall, Panera officials said. They’ll announce  locations of the new restaurants in the spring.

It’s a simple concept: Panera lists a suggested price for food, but customers pay what they want at its cafes in suburban St. Louis; Portland, Ore.; and Dearborn, Mich.

Only a few take advantage of the system, Panera officials said. About 15 to 20 percent of customers pay more than the list price, and about the same percent pay less or nothing. The intention is that these restaurants will take in enough cash to cover their expenses. If money is left over, restaurants use it to help needy people by feeding them or giving them jobs.

So making a profit and doing good appears to be a sustainable business model? Do you think we can expect more restaurants to follow suit?

6 comments Add your comment

Martha snell

February 24th, 2012
7:20 am

What a great concept…ther are ways all of us can help the less fortunate….God will bless your business….

Adrienne W

February 24th, 2012
11:03 am

This is a concept that has worked for many years in Mom and Pop restaurants. I have never seen a national brand using it though. Kudos to Panera, one of my favorite places. It would be nice to see this carried forward in other ways. Would like to see Panera follow suit with purchases of local, sustainable goods and produce!

Mommi Peters

February 24th, 2012
11:23 am

Now I like Panera for a whole new reason. “There is a gigantic difference between earning a great deal of money and being rich” Marlene Dietrich…. Panera is rich indeed.


February 24th, 2012
2:12 pm

Must have been Obama’s idea. It’s too good to be anyone elses’s.

I love Panera more so!

February 25th, 2012
12:05 am

I already love the food at Panera, now I have more of a reason to love it. I wish more companies would do this, it will change my spending plan for fast casual!


February 26th, 2012
9:15 pm

Such a project requires an extra ordinary amount of financing.