Some Residents Claim Pay-What-You-Can Panera Is Hurting Neighborhood

Over the last couple years, the folks at Panera have slowly been expanding their pay-what-you-can Panera Cares eateries beyond the initial experiment in Missouri. But the latest Panera Cares, located in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, is drawing some jeers from local residents who say the restaurant is attracting an undesirable element.

“It’s just kind of scary,” one longtime resident in the area tells CBS Chicago about the scene around Panera Cares. “A crowd of guys won’t let you though a sidewalk. That’s invasive.”

Police have met with community leaders to discuss concerns about homeless people in the area of the Panera Cares, but say there is no proof of a correlation between the restaurant’s opening and any increase in crime.

The alderman for the area says he has received complaints from some residents but calls the restaurant “a work in progress.”

But one local resident claims this is a case of much ado about very little.

“I don’t see any more of that now than I saw before at all,” he explains. “Before it was all relatively affluent neighbors and now it’s a mix of affluent neighbors and folks that aren’t as affluent.”

Panera’s area manager tells CBS:

“The concerns of the community are my concerns… If they’re feeling it, we want to understand it, and we’re committed to investigating as thoroughly as we can and then take the steps to eradicate it.”