A month ago, Panera Bread Co. opened its first non-profit, pay-what-you-can-afford eatery, called the Saint Louis Bread Company Cares CafÃ©, in Clayton, MO. And the restaurant chain’s chairman is so happy with the results, the company plans to launch two more in the coming months.
“I guess I would say it’s performing better than we even might have hoped in our cynical moments, and it’s living up to our best sense of humanity,” Panera chairman Ron Shaich said of the experiment.
The restaurant’s cashiers tell customers the suggested price of their orders and then the customers decide how much to pay. According to Shaich, between 60-70% pay the menu price. Around 15% dig into their pockets to pay a little more, while the other 15% or so pay less or even walk out paying nothing.
The restaurant, which features the same menu as Panera but is technically run by a non-profit organization called Panera Cares, took in $100,000 in revenue its first month. Panera supports the non-profit but is not on the hook financially if the pay-what-you-want restaurants fail.
Shaich didn’t say where the non-profit’s new locations would be. But a rep for Panera said they are looking for areas that will continue to attract an upscale diner, but is accessible to lower-income communities.