Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Panera’s pick-what-you-pay cafe holds its own


panera2Panera Bread’s hometown experiment in altruism appearsĀ to be working.

About eight weeks after opening Panera Cares — a nonprofit restaurant that invitesĀ customers to take what they need and pay what they can — executives say it appears to be on-track to covering its costs and becoming self-sufficient.

“It’s a fascinating test of humanity,” Panera Executive Chairman Ron Shaich told Reuters.

“On average, we’re coming in around 85 percent of the average retail price,” said Shaich, whom Panera Bread’s CEO has dubbed the “guiding light” of Panera Cares.

St. Louis-based Panera Bread provides the space to house the experimental cafe, which is run by a nonprofit group that grapples with the same labor and food costs as any other restaurant.