What is a meal at Panera Bread worth to you? A former Panera location in a prosperous St. Louis suburb has reopened as “St. Louis Bread Company Cares,” a restaurant where customers can select a meal, then pay what they think the meal is worth–or as much as they can afford. If customers can’t afford to pay anything, they can volunteer to work there. A not-for-profit foundation runs the restaurant, which opened this week.
The location has the same menu as regular Panera locations and is part of the chain’s distribution network, but the new business model seemed to make customers’ brains explode.
Dawn Frierdich, 52, came in to buy three loaves of bread an iced tea. She asked how much the drink would cost.
“About $1.85,” said the 21-year-old cashier, Michael Miller.
And the whole order?
“It would be, like, $12,” Miller told her, reminding her she didn’t have to pay if she didn’t want to. Frierdich tried to hand him $12 in cash, but he directed her to put it in the donation jar.
“This is a little hard. I just can’t wrap my head around this,” Frierdich said.
If the outlet can support itself, Panera hopes to expand the model across the country.