Every once in a while, I come across something that gives me hope for the rest of humanity. Of course I know there are a lot of good dudes and dudettes out there, but it’s nice to occasionally get confirmation of that fact.
The latest confirmation that people are good when given the chance? There’s a restaurant chain called Panera Bread, notably the favorite fast-food (ish) restaurant of She Who Must Eat Good Food. The chain has more than 1,500 stores nationwide. Three of these restaurants have an interesting way of getting money from their customers.
These three stores run a donation-only model. That is, the customers come in, order their food and then can pay whatever they want for the food they received. They can pay the suggested retail price, which is what it would cost in the rest of the stores, or they can pay less, or they can pay more. It all depends on what they want to give the store for their food.
The idea here is that people who can’t afford a good meal can come into these stores and actually walk out with food that tastes good and is (relatively) good for them, even if they can’t afford it.
The cynic in me said this is a quick way for a restaurant to go out of business, that people would walk in and then walk out without paying anything for the food. After all, it’s not agains the rules. The optimist in me says this is a chance for people to show it’s all right to do a good thing, the right thing. So how’s it working out for them?
“We were doing this for ourselves to see if we could make a difference with our own hands, not just write a check, but really make a contribution to the community in a real, substantive way,” Panera founder and Chairman Ronald Shaich told the Associated Press. The program, which Panera calls “Panera Cares,” is an example of a “community kitchens,” the AP says, in which for-profit companies act in part like nonprofits.
Most patrons, it finds, drop the entire retail cost, or more, into the voluntary donation box, in essence subsidizing a meal for somewhat who can’t pay the full amount. Panera says about 60 percent leave the suggested amount; 20 percent leave more; and 20 percent leave less. The largest single payment so far? One person paid $500 for a meal.
As I said, every once in a while, it’s good to see my faith in humanity get reaffirmed. There’s more goodness at the link. Why not give it a read?