Archive for November 18th, 2010

Non-profit, Pay-what-you-wish at Dearborn’s Panera

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Pay-what-you-wish is expected to soon begin at Dearborn's Panera.

Dearborn’s Panera will soon become one of the company’s nonprofit restaurants where customers pay-what-you wish.

Panera, which operates 1,400 franchised and corporate-owned bakery-cafes across the country, opened its first pay what you wish restaurant in Clayton, Mo., earlier this year.

Dearborn is now preparing to join this small non-profit experiment and will now be called Panera Cares.

We aren’t sure what to make of this move but some employees at the Dearborn Panera aren’t happy with the switch. Perhaps worth noting is that in the first experiment of pay-what-you-wish, nearly all baked goods were day-old from other stores. We are not sure how that will sit here in Dearborn.

In Clayton, cashiers tell customers their orders’ “suggested” price based on the menu. About 60% to 70% pay in full, Panera says. About 15% leave a little more and another 15% pay less, or nothing at all. A handful have left big donations, like $20 for a cup of coffee.

Panera’s Clayton store is run under the company’s St. Louis Bread Co. banner by a nonprofit organization called Panera Cares that publicly traded Panera Co. supports. But Panera won’t bear the nonprofit’s losses if the experiment fails. In an earlier story, Panera said the nonprofit is considering locations that, like Clayton, are upscale but accessible to lower-income customers. In Clayton’s case, St. Louis County’s offices and court house are nearby.

An earlier news article said “The Clayton Panera has hardly turned into a soup kitchen. Its longtime business clientele kept the lunch hour busy last week, with well-dressed workers clustered around laptops and talking on cellphones.”

To control freeloaders in the Clayton store, signs remind customers that “You’re on your honor.”

If it moves forward in Dearborn, it should be an interesting experiment.