This is an interesting concept. Detractors will say Panera builds locations so they can make money for stockholders, but this location was built and will operate using dollars from their in-house foundation. Almost all large and many small businesses include a social responsibility component, and this is something Panera has chose to do.
Charity. There are a lot of ways to contribute, and the Panera Bread Foundation – a 501(c)(3) charitable organization - is just doing something a bit different. This is their fifth location operating with this concept, and Panera has something like 1,600 locations. From Panera’s press release.
The Panera Bread Foundation opened its fifth non-profit community cafe – called Panera Cares – today in Boston. The cafe opening comes on the heels of four successful community cafe launches in St. Louis, MO, Detroit, MI, Portland, OR and Chicago, IL over the past three years.
The community cafe is located at 3 Center Plaza in the Government Center area of Boston. Panera Cares is a new kind of cafe – one that exemplifies an entirely different way of giving back. It is a non-profit community cafe of shared responsibility. The goals of this charitable program are to help ensure that everyone who needs a meal gets one and to raise the level of awareness about food insecurity in the country. …
The vision for the Panera Cares cafe is to use Panera’s unique restaurant skills to address real societal needs, make a direct impact in communities and raise the issue of food insecurity. …
Do head over and read the press release. The idea is pretty simple, I’m assuming they will post suggested donations for items on the menu. Some will pay more, some will pay less, and those who can not pay will get a free meal with opportunities to volunteer their time to other charitable projects.
Those who think this is not a good idea are not willing to try new things. This is not an official business model, rather a unique new idea born out of the companies charity arm. Are they trying to change up the social climate with an experiment? Maybe they are. So what? It’s their company and if shareholders don’t like it they can sell. (PNRA is up 7.66% on the NASDAQ during the last 12 months, and up 381% in the last five years.)
Will it work? I have no idea, they are putting the success of the idea into the hands of the local community. Let’s see how they react.
There are many companies who do something similar when it comes to donations of services and products. Large pharmaceutical companies provide free or low cost medications to those in need. Health care insurance companies put physicians, hospitals and kids together and fund treatments. These efforts should be praised and recognized.