Pay-what-you-can Panera

Panera Bread has just started a very interesting experiment: a community outreach restaurant where customers pay what they can afford. The sign at the entrance says it all:  “Take what you need, leave your fair share.”

Panera, called St. Louis Bread Company in its hometown, opened St. Louis Bread Company Cares in Clayton, Missouri on Sunday. More such non-profit eateries  (branded Panera Cares) may be on the way.

Here’s a bit more on the venture:

From a food waste perspective, the store sells day-old baked goods from other Paneras (but the sandwich bread is baked that day). That’s a useful outcome for those items, and it’s especially heartening given the previous news that some Panera franchises have poured bleach on their discarded food to prevent Dumpster diving.

The St. Louis Bread Company Cares has the regular prices listed as a guide, and it will be fascinating to see whether customers pay enough so that the non-profit restaurant is self-sustaining. Hopefully it will, as it’s sure to sustain some folks down on their luck.

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  1. Posted May 19, 2010 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    That’s really cool. The Panera in my town donates day-old bread to churches…our church picks up Monday’s bread every Tuesday morning.

  2. nuri
    Posted May 19, 2010 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    The panera’s around me donate to the local shelter that my parents work at. Often in amounts so large, my parents take some home and have good bread, stuffing, make croutons, bread crumbs, etc. Nothing goes to waste!

  3. Posted May 19, 2010 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    That’s great to hear. Sounds like Panera is moving to the front of the corporate responsibility line. And just to be clear, I think the whole bleach thing was done by a few rogue franchisees.

  4. Diane Kolack
    Posted May 19, 2010 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Wow – thanks for sharing this. What a great idea!

  5. Posted May 30, 2010 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    I briefly worked at a Panera in my town. While the company had a “policy” of donating all baked goods at the end of the day—the truth is, if the shelter does not send someone to pick up the left overs, it all gets bagged & goes into the dumpster. there were nights when I saw 4 or 5 55 gallon bags full taken to the dumpster. There was one manager who would leave it all bagged & allow me to take it to the shelter myself, but most of them would not. Those nights, I would dumpster dive before I left work (at 330am)(it was all in new, clean bags, double bagged before it was put in the dumpster) so that I could take it to a shelter.
    Just one of the reasons I only worked there 3 months.
    So, while its a great idea—if there is no “enforcement” from the top down—if it means extra work for the minimum wage worker, it’s probably not going to happen

  6. Becky
    Posted June 21, 2010 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    This is a really great idea and I hope that it will spread.

    Although I laughed when the newswoman said they chose Clayton because it was an economically diverse neighborhood. It is one of the wealthiest areas of St. Louis and that is why this restaurant will most likely survive. I doubt the people who need low cost meals would ever venture into the area…the locals would call the police on any homeless person who tried to take residence on the streets of Clayton.