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Panera Bread Founder Heartened By Insane Pay-What-You-Can Experiment

He shakes his fists like a politician.
He shakes his fists like a politician.

Taking a cue from Radiohead, idealistic Panera Bread opened a non-profit, pay-what-you-can café in St. Louis back in May, and chairman Ronald Shaich tells CNN today that it’s working out just fine. “It’s not a soup kitchen,” he explains. “It’s a wonderful human experience.” We’ve always found the staff at our local Panera cheerful and friendly to the point of seeming cult-y, and if they presented us with a bucket and told us to pay what we could we’d be tempted to toss in a dime, or just run away. But Shaich, who previously co-founded Au Bon Pain, has found that “people are fundamentally good,” and 60% pay about what they should, with 20% paying a little more and 20% paying less. Warm-hearted as it is, they’re not relying on it as a business model. Panera opens two stores a week, with 1400 currently in 40 states, and four months into this experiment they’ve still just got the one honor system joint.


Panera Bread Bets You’ll Pay for That Panini [Eatocracy]
Earlier: Non-profit Panera cafe: Take what you need, pay what you can [USA Today]

Panera Bread Founder Heartened By Insane Pay-What-You-Can Experiment