Panera Scores With Pay-What- You-Want Branch

Experiment shows 'people are fundamentally good': founder
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted May 17, 2011 5:37 PM CDT
Panera Bread Scores With Pay-What-You-Want Branch
Employee Kevin Wilson works behind the counter at the restaurant Tuesday, May 18, 2010, in Clayton, Mo.   (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Last May, Panera Bread turned a St. Louis-area cafe into a nonprofit branch, where customers pay what they choose. A year later, the experiment is working out fine, the AP reports: Some 60% of customers pay the suggested price, while 20% pay more and 20% pay less. It’s the biggest-ever community kitchen—a trend in which businesses function in part as charities.

Two more Panera branches have already sprung up, and many more are planned. Operating at 80% of retail, the Missouri branch pulls in a few thousand dollars a month beyond costs. The extra money goes to job and “life skills” training for at-risk youths, says Panera's founder. “The lesson here is most people are fundamentally good,” he says. “People step up and they do the right thing." (Read more Panera Bread stories.)

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