Panera Cares Community Cafe Opens in Portland

Panera Bread Company will open its first nonprofit café on the west coast, in Portland next week. If you haven’t heard about the concept, the menus have a “suggested amount”, but customers pay what they feel they can afford.

From the NY Times,

“In some ways it is a test for humanity,” said Ron Shaich, founder of Panera who launched the concept for the company. “Will people step up and help each other or will they take advantage?”

So far, people have stepped up. Panera said about 20 percent of the visitors to the cafes leave more than the suggested amount, 20 percent leave less and 60 percent pay what is suggested.

Those who are not able to pay anything do not have to, but the cafe suggests they volunteer their time in support of the organization.

“This is not about a handout,” Shaich said. “This is about a hand up, and every one of us has a need for that at some point in our lives.”

There are a number of other independent community kitchen formats already in existence around the country such as those in Denver and Salt Lake City. Panera, however, is one the first chain restaurants to make the leap.

The company is converting an existing Panera restaurant in the Hollywood neighborhood into the community cafe format. Panera looked at a number of potential sites around the country but said that it felt the “sensibility” of Portland suited the project. The company also tries to place restaurants in economically diverse neighborhoods that can support the format.

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. anon says

    That place is going to get a ton of business since it’s located very close to a huge subsidized housing project!

  2. sidemeat says

    I like it. It’s an innovative idea, it allows people to support a wholesome,
    community centered project that supports nutrition and, in fact, social services for
    those in need, as well as providing the commercial chicken salad sandwich fix that
    so many people crave.
    Genuinely, it’s near a Trader Joe’s, and at least one Subway, both sell scads of slightly
    better than commercial grade salads and sandwiches and all profit goes to Trader
    Joe and whatever the hell owns Subway.
    While next door is the option of at least a somewhat locally/freshly prepared product
    with the benefit that the profit might mean that a parent could
    take their kids out for some sandwiches and a few minutes of normality is very trying times
    when they might not otherwise be able. Perhaps someone actually does work for food…
    I’m not in the area often, but next time I am I’m gonna get a sandwich, and the extra couple of bucks I put in the jar is gonna make that sandwich even better…

    • sidemeat says

      surely, you didn’t think you could get away
      without a story?
      way back, musta been 1977 or so…
      I mean, there were no microwaves,
      Starbuck was just a protagonist in a difficult book,
      I don’t even think we had toaster pastries back then,
      no, we must have, we weren’t beasts…
      sidemeat was living in Knoxville,
      it’s a university town in Tennessee,
      you could google it these days…
      Knoxville was undergoing an economic downturn at that time,
      related to the recent devaluation of property,
      TVA (google it) had just moved into new buildings,
      abandoning downtown.
      Vacancies, troubles, malaise…
      In one of the vacant corners of one of the downtown buildings…
      ‘Bonus Cafe’
      What was that?
      What it was, one woman managed to get a low cost, maybe free rent on an otherwise
      empty space
      she was a motherly person, possibly had many grown children, grandchildren, I don’t know
      but she cooked, and she mothered.
      everybody and anybody was welcome, whatever she made that day was the menu, however much you wanted, and don’t you want some more of these greens honey?
      some more cornbread?
      She ‘charged’ maybe two bucks, I don’t remember for certain.
      the ‘Bonus’ was that whatever you paid went into the pool, and paid for those that couldn’t pay.
      I like to remember those times when I could pay, leave a little extra on the table even,
      but I know there were times that I couldn’t pay, I can remember those times fondly as well,
      because the windows were always steamed, the air thick with conversation and laughter, people of
      all circumstance and ability gathered, served, and loved, in the communal kitchen of that one grand woman….

  3. Jack O'Connor says

    I live right near here and I’ve gone here several times. I think it’s a great idea. Why the frick not? It seems to balance out, and it shows you that 20 percent (or 1 out of 5) adults is an ass and brings the other 4/5 down.

    • TweetDeckTV says

      Jack, look at it from a positive stance. The cup is only 1/5ths full of ass. The rest is a delicious punch.

  4. Barbara Wells says

    My family ate at this restaurant today. We were traveling through from Montana and we don’t have any Panera Breads. Love them. Was really taken back when entering the restaurant and being told about the program. I was SO touched. There have been times in my life, more than once, that I could have really been a recipient to this program. I wish the shop the best and hope it succeeds.

  5. Andrew says

    Panera like the One World concept is an amazing thing, I was blessed to have the One World Experience here in Spokane, WA. I had more people overpay than underpay. It is truly an amazing thing.

  6. Some chick in PDX says

    I love this idea. As a college student, I can’t always afford full price for a meal.

    I always pay the full amount when I can afford it, but on the weeks when I’m stealing toilet paper out of the school restrooms…