"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." - Dorothea Lange

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

i'm heading to panera for some chicken soup right now!

A few weeks ago my son Max told me about a very cool program started by Panera's head honcho, Ron Shaich. In late January, Max's very own Boston was graced with the arrival of the fifth "Panera Cares" community cafe. I hadn't heard of these before, so Max filled me in. Today, I heard a story about "Panera Cares" on NPR. Seems the good word is getting out!

Shaich didn't start the "pay what you can" restaurant movement, but he is the first to bring it to a well-known chain that has a zillion locations and a bazillion customers. It's possible that with support like his, we may see more restaurants of this kind sprout up across the land.

The idea is simple. The customer orders food from the same menu other Panera stores offer. When it comes time to pay, the person behind the counter states what the suggested price of that order is. At that point, the customer gets to make a decision: pay that amount, pay less than that amount or pay more than that amount. It's a retail store that charges on a sliding scale!

The store in Boston seems to be doing very well. Like its counterparts (in Portland, Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis) about 60% of the customers pay the price that is quoted, 20% pay less and 20% pay more. It works out for everyone! Those experiencing food insecurity get to dine out with dignity (and no judgement), and those who wish to lend a helping hand to the hungry get to do so easily and painlessly.

"Panera Cares" addresses an issue that we simply can't avoid. Over 17 million homes in the US are food insecure. One in five children do not have enough to eat each day. These are staggering statistics.

The mission of "Panera Cares" states that they are trying to do what they can to lessen these numbers:

"While many solutions exist to provide access to food, 'Panera Cares' community cafes are designed to address hunger in a new way…in a restaurant setting that maintains one’s dignity and fills one’s belly."

Visit their website to read more about these cool new community cafes. 


Jessica said...

What a wonderful example of how business and being humane can combine to become a great thing! I haven't heard of this before. We have a Panera here in Midland - I'll make a point to visit it more! Thank you for sharing. :o)

Max F. said...

I think it's also important to consider that the Panera Cares restaurants are strategically located in wealthy areas (the one in Boston is in the financial district). This strategy ensures maximizes the potential for the store to stay in business, which makes sense from a business perspective but is important to factor in when looking at the statistics about the clientele and how much they pay.

Gloria Baker Feinstein said...

I didn't realize that. Max. Thanks for pointing it out. Great info!