Restaurant’s Pay-What-You-Want Menu a Hit
Just when you were about to lose faith in humanity, along comes the story of Panera Cares Cafes.
Honestly, it’s an idea that any cynic would scoff at: Panera Bread company opens a few nonprofit restaurants. There are no prices listed on the menu, just suggested donations. The idea is that anyone who needs a meal can get one — for a little, or even for free.
If you’re of a cynical frame of mind, you might think that those donation bins accumulated mostly spare change and dust. Wrong. It turns out, the cafes have been a success — so much so, in fact, that Panera is set to launch more of them, as USA Today reports.
Hooray for humanity!
“We didn’t know if people would help each other or take advantage,” Ron Shaich, executive chairman of Panera Bread, tells the newspaper. “To put it simply, these are nonprofit community cafes of shared responsibility. They will only survive and self-sustain if people in those communities do their part.”
Turns out the folks frequenting the cafes in Dearborn, Michigan; Clayton, Missouri; and Portland, Oregon, are, indeed, doing their part. USA Today reports 60 percent of diners pay the suggested amount, 20 percent pay more and 20 percent pay less or nothing, allowing the restaurants to cover costs and break even.
“That’s the only way they will stay open,” Kate Antonacci, Panera Cares project manager, tells the newspaper. “These are not free cafes. … Once [customers] really understand what we’re trying to do, that leaving just a quarter more will help the person behind them, people will understand that this is an easy way to help somebody out.”
And, it seems, it’s a way to pay it forward with dignity. As USA Today notes, signs in the Dearborn cafe simply, wisely read: “We are not about a handout. We are about a hand up for those who really need it.”
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