“Pay What You Can Afford” Restaurants | The Frugalista

“Pay What You Can Afford” Restaurants

by frugalista on September 27, 2011

Chello! Ok, so Panera has a non-profit concept that it’s trying out where people only pay what they can afford to spare. Wow! Now anyone who has read this blog knows that I have an unhealthy obsession relationship with Panera. It’s where I do a lot of my writing, and well, I’m a professional writer. At least this info about the company makes me feel good about the money I’ve spent there. The Panera Cares non-profit restaurants are in St. Louis, Detroit and Portland. The Panera Cares restos in Detroit and St. Louis have done remarkably well, turning a profit. The slogan of the stores are “Take what you need, leave your fair share.”

According to the St. Louis Business Journal:
(Panera owner) Shaich estimates that about 20 percent of visitors to the cafes leave more than the suggested amount, 20 percent leave less and 60 percent leave the suggested donation. On average, each cafe serves 3,500 to 4,000 customers per week and generates about 75 to 80 percent of the retail value of the food.

Those who can’t afford the meal, often volunteer to help out in the kitchen or volunteer work in other ways. However Portland’sPanera Cares hasn’t been doing too well.

From the Portland Tribune:
Staff at the café and Shaich talked about people with obvious needs for mental health and addiction services camping out in the eating area, making it less appealing for customers who can pay to keep the café open.
“We had to help them understand that this is a café of shared responsibility and not a handout,” Shaich said. “It can’t serve as a shelter and we can’t have community organizations sending everybody down.

I think it’s fabulous that a big company started a non-profit to help feed those in need. But likewise, I don’t like that people are taking advantage of it. I’m not a fan of greediness. I hope that the Portland store can get the same balance as the Detroit and St. Louis locations. There’s nothing wrong with a little community and no one likes a mooch.

So would you eat a Panera Cares? What do you think of the concept? Would you pay more or less for your food? Would you pay at all? I know I’m a softie for such efforts. I’d pay more. How would you feel about potentially eating next to a homeless person?

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