Bakery chain’s nonprofit cafés let patrons pay what they can

Bakery chain’s nonprofit cafés let patrons pay what they can

The virtual ink had barely dried on our story about Café Gratitude and its pay-what-you-can menu item when we came across a similar initiative, this time on a larger scale. Bakery chain Panera — which operates more than 1,460 bakery-cafés in the U.S. and Canada — recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of its nonprofit Panera Cares community cafés, where patrons are allowed to pay what they can.

One of the goals of Panera’s charitable Panera Cares program is “to ensure that everyone who needs a meal gets one,” in the company’s own words. Toward that end, patrons at the community cafés are encouraged to take what they need — the menu is the same as in Panera’s for-profit locations — and to donate their fair share. There are no prices or cash registers — only suggested donation levels and donation bins. There’s also the option of volunteering an hour of time in exchange for a meal. The latest Panera Cares café — opened earlier this year in Portland, Oregon — joined two launched in 2010 in Clayton, Missouri, and Dearborn, Michigan.

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