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May 17, 2011

Panera Founder Says Restaurant Chain's Charity Cafes a Success

A year into the cafe chain Panera's experiment in establishing pay-as-you-go outlets whose proceeds benefit charity, the company's founder is pronouncing the effort a success, with most patrons paying more than the retail value of their meals, writes the Associated Press.

Ronald Shaich, chairman of Panera, said 60 percent of customers at the nonprofit eateries, operated by the company's charitable foundation in the Detroit, Portland, Ore., and St. Louis metropolitan areas, pay more than the “suggested funding levels” the cafes substitute for menu prices. Only one in five pays less than the suggested sum.

Payments go into a donation box to support local charities and also finance a program to train and hire troubled youths to work at the cafes. Panera's foundation plans to open an additional nonprofit outlet every three months.

“The lesson here is most people are fundamentally good,” Mr. Shaich said. “People step up and they do the right thing.”