Panera Chairman Ron Shaich turned the Clayton Panera Bread location into a nonprofit community restaurant based on a pay-what-you-can experiment. This idea was based on Denver's Same Cafe, which provides healthy food to anyone who wants to eat. Same Cafe's cash register was replaced by a donation box in October 2006. The cafe gained national attention for its unique approach to food service.
Their philosophy, regardless of economic status, is: Everyone deserves the chance to eat healthy food while being treated with dignity.
Panera Bread Company has opened locations just like it in St. Louis, Dearborn, Mich. and Portland, Ore.
"You know, we put our life saving into this because we believe in this so much and it is just validation that here is a huge company that sees that community building is possible even in a corporate world and that we can take a step back and take care of our neighbor," Same Café co-owner Libby Birky said.
Seventy five percent of what Same Cafe needs to stay open comes from the donation box. The other 25 percent comes from private donations, fundraisers and corporate grants.
To learn more about Panera's method, visit http://www.panerabread.com/about/community/. To figure out how Same Cafe operates, go to http://www.soallmayeat.org/.
(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)