Panera Bread Co. (Richmond Heights, Mo.) has opened a nonprofit store in the upscale St. Louis suburb of Clayton, Mo., where customers are asked to pay what they want. Bearing the name St. Louis Bread Co. Cares – the chain's former name and one it still uses in its hometown – the pilot restaurant has the same menu as the chain’s other 1400 locations, just without stated prices.
The concept stems from the company’s motto, "Take what you need, leave your fair share," which hangs above the deli counter. Panera says the Clayton location is the first of what it hopes will be many around the country if it can sustain itself financially.
Panera will rely on its nonprofit foundation to support the restaurant and any future locations, including paying the new restaurant's bills, staff salaries, rent and food costs. The national bakery and restaurant chain plans to use its distribution system and access to national food suppliers to help fuel the concept. At the end of each month, the foundation will tally donations to see if they cover food costs, and Panera won't bear losses if the experiment fails.
Former Panera ceo Ronald Saich will run the nonprofit along with other projects for the company.