Panera Bread CEO Says Pay What You Can

By Emily Drew
Matter Network

One in six Americans live in “food insecure” homes. This means one in six Americans is seriously hungry, likely under-nourished or malnourished and doesn’t know when he/she will have their next meal.

When Panera Bread Founder and CEO Ronald Shaich learned this, he thought about how Panera Bread opens two restaurants every week, employs 60,000 people, and he knew Panera’s resources could have impact on America’s hunger problem. He personally set out to help, pitched his board (with a lot of respect and credibility under his belt), created a foundation and the result is a new kind of chain restaurant: pay-what-you-can Paneras.

Shaich’s vision was to create a restaurant where anyone could eat a meal with dignity, a place far removed from the institutional food of most soup kitchens, where the hungry too often line up with their heads held low.

“In place like that all you’ve got are people in pain around you,” Shaich said today as he told his story in a moving talk at Sustainable Brands ’11. “You see it and you feel it, and you get to the institutional food that you ate in third grade. Sure it feeds your belly, but it leaves you no dignity.”

Panera Cares shops look like any other Panera Bread, but the prices are just suggestions. If you can pay, you do. If you can’t, you don’t. If you can pay more, you’re welcome.

Read more at Matter Network

27 responses to “Panera Bread CEO Says Pay What You Can

  1. As a person who is “food insecure” (WOW is that a newspeak gag or what?), ie: not sure about today or tomorrow’s meal(s) (I often wildcraft what I can from the woods this time of year), I can honestly say that THIS is wonderful. We went to some food pantries in the beginning of our poverty, and frankly, we were treated like smelly old cabbage leaves – with mold! How nice that someone in the corp. model gets it. BRAVO!

  2. Morgana…. great comment… i can add nothing to top it except to express thanks. We need more of this and this needs to become mainstream.

    Doing good feels good and is contagious.

  3. For more than three years, the Agabus Necessity (Acts 11:28-30) has encouraged my fellow Christians to buy more storable food than they need. If they start too late to build the stock, they could get in trouble for ‘conspicuous consumption’ and could be accused as ‘hoarders’. However, over protracted time, those folks should accumulate enough staple items to help several families for at least 6 months. AN also urges members to grow small gardens and purchase non GMO seeds for future gardening, unless the rogue regime confiscates our harvests.
    MLK said in paraphrase, ‘No matter how bad the future, I will still plant an apple tree.’

  4. @ albert w loescher – christians should obviously be more concerned with learning history instead of spreading fear of a fictitious “rogue regime” or otherwise meddling with politics.
    The quote wasn’t from MLK aka Martin Luther King but from the real Martin Luther. You know, German dude who invented protestantism.

    • Why so vicious? Because someone knows – as anyone should who’s read the food safety law – that this government has given itself and its corporate cronies, the power to take anyone’s food? AWL is right. What’s the point of speaking so harshly? Does someone coming from a religious perspective upset you?

      • Mathew’s response didn’t strike me as vicious. I thought it was a fully justified reaction to historical ignorance of Christianity, coming from someone who had to make a point of saying “my fellow Christians” in the first sentence of his. That was sanctimonious, and he had it coming.

  5. Mathey, I think I love you. 🙂

  6. (…even if I cannot spell your name)

    I love this, and this needs to spread to other cities, other companies.

  7. I love this philosophy. I hope it’s contagious, and other corporations take it on!

    • you rarely see ‘corporate’ and ‘compassion’ in the same sentence… this is really fantastic

      especially in light of Orlando’s laws against feeding the homeless

  8. What Panera is doing is great for business… and there’s nothing wrong with making money IF YOU ARE TRULY DOING GOOD WORKS while you’re at it. I would love to see it catch on and this way we can tell who is not doing good works by their actions (or inactions, as the case may be), and conversely the ones who pretend they are doing right but they are trying to fool you into another of their deadly traps.

    All in all, if more businesses did this, the realities of this world would gain in overall awareness… then we wouldn’t be able to be fooled anymore. Nice idea.

  9. and yet Over two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese…….. go figure!

  10. Sal,
    I believe this to be because McDonald’s and other types of restaurants have the cheap menus, where you can get a cheeseburger for a dollar.
    I go to Panera, I spent I think about 7/8 dollars for soup and a drink. If you take that 7 or 8 dollars to McDonald’s you’ll get more food(and a lot more fat and calories) and can feed more than one person.
    Quality comes with a higher price tag, unfortunately for some people out there that price tag doesn’t work with their budgets and needs.

    • Hi people of fiction. I know it is fun to point the finger at McDonald’s followed with the always bias statement “I believe….” Good thing we have research that shows your wrong. Obesity is not caused just be MCD and others, it might play a role but most of it has to due with Evolution and Exercise. We still think that we need calories in abundance when ever we can get them ( in this case yes MCD and others provide them) But someone like Jerry rice ate 7,000 calories still thin, Chad Jonson eats at MCD’s everyday still thin. This is due to exercise, genetics also factors in but that would take a while to explain.

      • That’s a lovely load of propaganda you just spewed out Jake Turner… besides the problem is beyond mere weight gain… and it stems from the FACTs that our air is poisoned with chem-trails (check it out… you can get that info right from the military, it is listed as a bio-weapon) our water is poisoned with fluoride against our will… sold to us a something good for our teeth, which it is not and it was used in WWII to keep the prisoners docile and will kill in large enough doses… our food poisoned with gmos, HFCS, “natural” flavorings which are not natural, aspertame that they re-named in order to continue the poisoning, hydrigenated oils and more… let’s see, air, food, water…… what else do you need for life?

        Sounds to me like you are up to date on your vaccines for stupid.

    • $7-8 for soup and a drink is outrageously expensive.

      I’m a 99er, and if it wasn’t for Food Stamps, I’d be going hungry, since the Food banks here in San Diego are utterly swamped and out of resources. Not to mention I have little transportation.

      But Food Stamps is $200 a month. That’s $6.66 per day, assuming a 30-day month. See the problem? I have eaten nothing but my own home cooking for a year now. It gets damned old, but it’s all I can afford. And at that, I only eat meat 2 days a week. Otherwise it’s bread and cheese and fruit and veggies, beans, lentils, split peas, etc.

      So the idea of paying $7-8 for a bowl of soup and a drink? Uhh, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over?

  11. While I applaud Panera’s effort to feed those in need, I wish more of their foods didn’t have an overabundance of preservatives, fat, calories and sodium. The impact these excesses will have an impact on the lives and health care needs of those they serve. Panera says it’s “fresh” and “healthy”. After reading their nutrition content and ingredients lists, I beg to differ.

  12. I LOVE Panera and have missed it a lot since I moved out here. It was a great place for the service, the food, the clean and comfortable eating area. I am so glad to see a company that I l like so much “returning the favor”. I just wish they had some locations in the Phoenix area. If one of these stores came to my area, I would be glad to participate because I have been so fortunate to never be in need, and especially because it is a company that I feel is doing good for the community.

  13. Too often, the maketplace strips social consciousness (e.g. After a daycare instituted $1/minute fee for late pick-up, the number of late pick-ups went UP — the social contract of being on-time replaced with a price list).

    In my practice, I abandon poverty scales and simply announce my ‘rack-rate’ and ask clients to pay what they can. Interestingly, it is usually MORE than the ability-to-pay models would assign.

  14. CelesteDuckworth

    I am provoked to jealousy by Panera’s thoughtfulness in this project they have implemented. One has to make the money it takes to keep the doors open and to give dignity where there is rarely ever any given is an incredible thing to see happening here. I own a beauty shop. I am thinking this is a good plan to help the poor get their hair done professionally at a small price or even free. Often we at our shop make it easy to afford a cut and shampoo but why not give. Give and it will be given to you, pressed down, shaken together and running over will it be heaved unto you. I am going to think this through to do this. I think Panera is onto something here.

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  16. Every summer I travel to Knoxville, TN on a mission trip. There is so much concentrated poverty in their downtown area that it’s all we can do to get enough meals out everyday. The only meal-supplying shelter (that I am currently aware of) is K.A.R.M., or Knoxville Area Rescue Ministry. It is such a struggle for these people to even obtain water that we often just hand out water to anyone who looks like they need it.
    I completely support this brilliant idea and I think that Matthew has a good point. If we don’t understand our foundations, we’ll never gain anything from our faith.
    And some of you really need to think about how you would feel in someone who couldn’t pay for even one meal a day. It gives you a better outlook on everything.

  17. I really agree with Steve-O. Pay-what-you-can yoga has gotten HUGE in Santa Monica, Ca and the teachers all say they make more money using this model. I don’t make a lot because I chose to work for a non-profit plus I pay astronomical student loans. I’ll be honest, I pay every bill on time and I’m credit card debt free but yoga, and sometimes even lunch, is just a luxury I have to do without. This is great service they are offering. I hope they can expand it.

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