What if when it came time to pay your bill in a café or restaurant and you were told to pay what you wanted? It may sound unbelievable, but if you ever find yourself in one of the Panera Bread cafés in and around St. Louis, Missouri in the United States, it’s a choice you’ll have to make.
The pay-what-you-want café concept isn’t new to Panera Bread, as the St. Louis-based chain launched the first of five such cafés three years ago. These five cafés, spread across several states, are non-profit and each item on the menu is paid for by donations. In the latest venture involving all St. Louis-area cafés, pay-what-you-want has a charitable twist.
While all other dishes on the menu remain at their fixed prices, one dish, the Turkey Chili in a Bread Bowl, has become a Meal of Shared Responsibility. The suggested donation is $5.89, but customers can choose what to pay, no matter how small the amount may be. The proceeds gained from those who can afford a more generous donation will go toward covering the costs of those who can’t afford to pay, as well as toward various St. Louis-area hunger initiatives.
It’s clear that Panera Bread are sincere in their efforts, and as founder, chairman and co-CEO Ron Shaich puts it, “We don’t want this to be self-serving. We want to make this an intellectually honest program of integrity.” If the initiative is successful in St. Louis, it may be rolled out in the 1,600 cafés across the United States, offering a small helping hand to those in need.