Pay it Forward

What would happen if you had a restaurant where you let the customers decide how much to pay for their meal?

Panera Bread tried the concept on for size, and has created a successful business model based on the honor system, and a “pay what you wish” policy.

The first nonprofit Panera Cares eatery opened in Clayton, Missouri and expansion plans are already underway.
When an order is placed, the cashier gives the customer a suggested price, and accepts whatever they offer, no questions asked.  According to the chain, about 60-70% pay the full amount, with about 15% paying extra, and another 15% paying less or nothing at all. A handful have left generous donations, such as the customer who left $20 for a cup of coffee.

A Panera spokesperson says that the nonprofit chain is a challenge to other corporations to push their philanthropy beyond writing checks.

“The fascinating question is: Can we take our skills, our core competencies and apply them very directly to solving some of the problems in society? And not just for publicity, but to make a difference.”

Given the early indications of the concept’s long term success, the answer appears to be a resounding yes!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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