Panera Bread Honor System Paying Off

Good news, there is reason to have faith in the goodwill and fairness of mankind. As it turns out, people, when given a choice, will pay a fair price for a good meal. The Panera Bread non-profit experiment is proving to be a success after the chain implemented a pay-what-you-can policy for its patrons.

Operated by Panera Cares, the non-profit feeds almost 4,000 people daily. The bakery cafe suggests a recommended price for each item, but customers pay what they can or think is fair. Around 65% pay the recommended price, while the others either pay more or less. Some pay nothing at all. To date the restaurant has nearly broken even.

According to the New York Daily News, “Panera hopes to open a similar location in every community where it operates. Other nonprofits have opened community kitchens, where customers set the price, and the idea has spread among food enthusiasts and philanthropists. But Panera brings new scale to the idea—its community restaurants will use the company’s distribution system and have access to its national food suppliers.”

The question now is will the community sustain a concept like this indefinitely?

Will those who can afford to pay more feel obligated to pick up the tab for those less fortunate?

What other channels of trade might pay-what-you-can business model support? Grocery? C-store?

Contributed by Paul Ballew