Pay It Forward Friday with Panera Cares

Jan 2013

Stories were many in the news this week for Pay it Forward Friday, but I’m choosing to post about a Boston event.  The Panera Bread Foundation has opened its fifth non-profit cafe where customers can choose to pay it forward themselves by contributing to pay for other’s meals.  They are addressing the issue of hunger in this country by providing meals while maintaining dignity for those with food insecurity.
Ron Shaich, founder, chairman and Co CEO of Panera Bread, and president of its foundation said Wednesday, “This is a pay-it-forward model and will work only if the community supports it and one another.”
The bakery cafe-at 3 Center Plaza in Government Center-has no cash registers or prices, but instead suggested donations for each meal and donations bins which encourage those who can afford it, to leave a bit more to cover the meals of those who can not.
Other locations in St. Louis, Detroit, Portland and Chicago have been built by the Panera Corporation at a cost of one million dollars and there is a volunteer program available for those who would like to get involved outside of monetary donations. Their job training intership has already graduated dozens of youth who are now working members of society.
The stores have a policy in place that limits repeat customers and are sensitive to issues that might come along with opening a cafe of this nature.  Panera’s roots are in the Boston area and the addition of this location was ideal for a community that supports the Panera Cares concept.  According to first day results, the Boston opening was the most successful yet for the non profit, and although contributions usually slow after the novelty wears off, the team is inspired by the generosity of the area.

What do you think of Panera’s “Cares” concept? Does it make you more likely to patronize the business, locally, or just in genreal? Join the conversation and tell us your ideas in the comments.