Panera restaurants launched a non-profit called “Panera Cares” in 2010, which ran certain locations on a pay-what-you-can basis. This month, the last such location in Boston is closing its doors.

Sarah Taylor writes at The Blaze:

Panera Bread’s ‘pay-what-you-want’ socialist program goes totally belly-up

Panera Bread will be closing its last pay-what-you-can restaurant, located in Boston, on Feb. 15.

The move comes after the business’s “nonprofit” restaurant concept became unviable. On Tuesday, Eater reported that none of the restaurant’s five locations was self-sustaining.

What are the details?

The program, Panera Cares, was initially created to serve food to low-income people nine years ago in 2010. The concept was a pay-what-you-want business model in which patrons visiting the restaurant could eat for a donation.

In 2010, Ron Shaich — the company’s founder and former CEO — said that the program’s aim was a “test of humanity.”

“Would people pay for it?” he asked during a TEDxStLouis talk. “Would people come in and value it?”
The answer was apparently “no,” because here we are less than a decade later, with no Panera Cares’ franchises running in the black.

The outlet also reported that through the project’s nine-year run, many of the locations were “mobbed” by homeless people and students who ate without donating. Because of the “mob,” one location was forced to limit its homeless patrons’ meals to a few per week.

Here’s a 2010 video report from CBS News about the launch of the project:

Erin Kuschner of has a statement from Panera on the closure of the last location in Boston:

“The Panera Bread Foundation and our Boston team have been humbled by those community members who have embraced our mission to help fight food insecurity and supported the Boston Panera Cares community cafe,” Panera Bread said in a statement to “During its six years in operation, we served meals with dignity to everyone who walked through our doors. Despite our commitment to this mission, it’s become clear that continued operation of the Boston Panera Cares is no longer viable. Panera remains dedicated to our other long-term philanthropic programs, like Day-End Dough-Nation, which donates $100 million worth of retail goods annually to feed those in need nationwide.”

The statement continued: “We’re working with the current bakery-café associates affected by the closure to identify alternate employment opportunities within Panera and Au Bon Pain. Panera is committed to ensuring a smooth transition for all associates.” (Panera Bread bought Au Bon Pain in 2017; both are owned by JAB Holding Co.)

While Panera deserves credit for trying to make a difference, it’s not difficult to see why this experiment ultimately failed. As Matt Walsh of the Daily Wire explains in the brief video below, it has much to do with human nature.

Featured image via YouTube.


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