How much did you pay for your meal the last time you went to Panera Bread? $10, $15? When’s the last time you walked into a Panera and didn’t see cash registers but donation jars instead? Enter: Panera Cares.
On January 23, Panera opened a Panera Cares cafe in downtown Boston. The concept of the cafe is simple: you pay what you can afford. You can eat your meal in a place that “feeds the belly, and feeds the soul.” Panera Cares is a way to help those who are food insecure. I know what you’re (probably) thinking. If you’re anything like me you’re wondering if people will just go in and order a lot of food, and then only pay, say $3. I’m a skeptic; I’m also wrong. Panera Cares is evidence that most people really do do the right thing. The Boston Panera Cares project manager told the Boston Globe that in the first week the cafe is open, customers usually give over the suggested amount for their food. Eventually, that number dwindles down and on average, customers give about 65-70% of the suggested donation for their food. Of course, there are always going to be those great people out there who still pay extra.
What I especially love about Paneara Cares is that they’re not like me, they’re not skeptical. They have faith that people will be honest, giving, respectful, and appreciative. They don’t seem to be worried if they’re getting “scammed.” They’re also putting their Panera Cares locations in places that really benefit from them. I can’t speak for the other locations but I do know that their Boston location couldn’t be in a better spot in the city. They’re located in downtown Boston–right around the corner from the New England Center for the Homeless. The cafe is in a place that needs it the most. They’re not shying away from making a major impact.
Want to help? Even if a customer can’t afford to pay extra for their meal, they can still volunteer their time (one hour of service “pays” for one meal). And if there’s not a Panera Cares location near you, you can also donate on-line. Even if you can’t help, I suggest you check out the Panera Cares website for their uplifting and inspiring stories.
Currently, there are 5 Panera Cares locations in the United States and they’re in Missouri, Michigan, Oregon, Chicago, and its newest location in Boston. The first location opened in 2010 and they’ve been expanding ever since. These non-profit restaurants are a clear indication that there are great people in the world. These sorts of cafes bring out the best in people and it’s evident because they are able to stay open and make a difference…all because of the generosity of their patrons.
To feel even more inspired, read the story by the Boston Globe here.