Panera Shutters Pay-What-You-Can Locations

The concept sought to reduce hunger by encouraging customers to buy meals with a suggested donation amount.

February 08, 2019

BOSTON – After six years, Panera Bread is closing the final location of its pay-what-you-can experiment, the Chicago Tribune reports. Panera Cares allowed customers to buy meals with a suggested donation amount to increase hunger awareness in the United States. The donations aimed to cover the cost of the store’s operations, plus pay for those who couldn’t purchase a meal themselves.

Panera Cares cafes operated in Chicago; Boston; Clayton, Mo.; Dearborn, Mich.; and Portland, Ore. “Despite our commitment to this mission, it's become clear that continued operation of the Boston Panera Cares is no longer viable,” the company said in a statement. “We're working with the current bakery-cafe associates affected by the closure to identify alternate employment opportunities within Panera and Au Bon Pain.”

The chain said the experiment wanted to give those who couldn’t buy a meal, such as the homeless, the dignity of eating in the café. The company wanted to create a community feeling that welcomed everyone. Rival Starbucks is still trying to recover from a highly publicized snafu in 2018 when a store manager attempted to have two African-American customers arrested for loitering when the two men were waiting to have a business meeting at the store.

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