The pilot restaurant is run by a nonprofit foundation. If it can sustain itself financially, Panera will expand the model around the country within months. It all depends on whether customers will abide by the motto that hangs above the deli counter: "Take what you need, leave your fair share."
Panera hopes to open a similar location in every community where it operates. Other nonprofits have opened community kitchens, where customers set the price, and the idea has spread among food enthusiasts and philanthropists. But Panera brings new scale to the idea - its community restaurants will use the company's distribution system and have access to its national food suppliers.
New "pay what you want" cafe in St. Louis
Melanie RedmanMelanie Redman is a Social Mission Collaborator with more than 10 years of direct experience in strategic, leadership and advisory roles across the social mission sector in the U.S. and Canada. She calls many places home - most recently Toronto, Buenos Aires and Seattle - but was sprouted from the Ozark Mountains of Southern Missouri. Learn more about her work at www.melanieredman.com or on LinkedIn.