Last year, Panera Bread and its founder Ronald Shaich decided to launch two pay-what-you-wish cafés in St. Louis and Detroit — part social experiment, part PR move. But in opening a third experimental café in Portland, Oregon, Shaich was shocked to find that the homeless and indigent up there felt a tad more entitled, and were apt to hang out all day. We don’t want to say we told you so, but we did call the experiment insane.
As the Portland Tribune reports, the Portland café is only making about 60 percent of the revenue of a regular, full-paying location, compared to an 80 percent take in the politer climes of St. Louis and Detroit. Also, the homeless tend to camp out there and stay all day if they aren’t shooed away, so Panera had to do something there that they didn’t have to do in the previous two pay-what-you-wish cafés: hire a bouncer of sorts, whom they’re calling a "community outreach associate." Shaich says, “There’s a palpable sense of people in pain attracted to our [Portland] store,” and adds that a number of visitors to the Portland café had “a sense of entitlement.”
Whatever ends up happening with the Portland café, we’ll admit that the idea still doesn’t sound as zany as a military-themed burger joint.
A wiser Panera still tries to care [Portland Tribune via Consumerist]
Earlier: Panera Bread Founder Heartened By Insane Pay-What-You-Can Experiment