When Ron Shaich, the founder, CEO and chairman of Panera Bread, opened the first "Panera Cares" cafe in St. Louis three years ago, with a plan to let customers decide what they wanted to pay, people thought he was crazy.
The menu featured suggested donations for each item and a donation box replaced the cash register. Shaich believed people in a community who could afford to pay more would do that, supporting those who couldn't afford to pay full price - or who would pay nothing at all. His goal was simple: Make sure people had enough to eat, whether they could afford it or not.
Three years later, with Panera Cares in St. Louis, Detroit, Chicago, Portland, Ore., and Boston, the experiment has been a success, Shaich told several hundred people attending the Community Leadership Breakfast of the Foundation for MetroWest Friday.
The Panera Cares cafes pay their own way now, he said, adding, "Of those five cafes, the people of Boston are the most generous. We may not be able to drive, but we have heart."
For more about Panera Bread, visit their website https://www.panerabread.com/
For more about Panera Cares, visit their website http://paneracares.org/locations/
Panera Bread operates a store front in Franklin (Franklin Village Plaza) and their bakery operates from a facility on Beaver St. They are a key contributor of baked goods for the Franklin Food Pantry.