A recent Globe story described how this cafe differs from most others in a chain of more than 1,600 restaurants: “There is no cash register at the Panera cafe near Government Center in Boston. There are no prices either — just suggested donations and bins to leave money, if you can afford to.’’
At the cafe at 3 Center Plaza, the idea is to provide a place where everyone can eat with dignity, regardless of their ability to pay.
In a statement, Ron Shaich, founder, chairman, and co-chief executive of Panera Bread, said: “This community cafe is a gift to the community that was funded by Panera. All of the build-out costs – nearly $1 million – were covered by the company. Panera donated the cafe to the Panera Bread Foundation and will operate it on behalf of the foundation. Now that the site is open, it’s up to the community to sustain it. All consumers have to do is cover its direct operating costs. They do so by donating for their meals and leaving a little bit more if they’re able to help cover the costs of the meals of customers who cannot contribute. This is a pay-it-forward model and will only work if the community supports it and one another.’’
Previously, the foundation has opened community cafes in St. Louis; Detroit; Portland, Ore.; and Chicago.