Panera Bread’s ‘pay what you can’ socialist program ends in abject failure as freeloaders cause stores to go broke

In another example proving that socialist economic models don’t work, Panera Bread is closing the last store that was part of the chain’s socialist “pay what you can” program because they’ve all become financially unsustainable.

The chain announced this week that it would be closing its Boston store Feb. 15 after it, too, failed to turn a profit. In fact, it wasn’t even close.

On Tuesday, Eater reported that none of the restaurant’s five “non-profit” locations was able to generate sufficient revenue to remain open.

The program was called “Panera Cares,” and it was designed to serve food to low-income people when it was launched nine years ago. The ‘pay-what-you-want’ business model allowed patrons visiting the locations to eat for a donation — or not.

In 2010 when the program was launched Ron Shaich, Panera founder and CEO, said it was to serve as a “test of humanity.”

“Would people pay for it?” he asked during a TEDxStLouis talk. “Would people come in and value it?”

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    Judging by the closure of all five locations, the answer would have to be a resounding “no.”

    The retail chain also noted that throughout the nine-year existence of the program, Panera Cares locations were “mobbed” by homeless people and students, all of whom ate without donating a penny. In fact, because of the existence of a “mob,” one of the locations was forced to limit homeless people to just a few meals every week.

    “The Portland-based Panera Cares was reportedly only recouping between 60 and 70 percent of its total costs,” Eater’s Brenna Houck wrote. “The losses were attributed to students who ‘mobbed’ the restaurant and ate without paying, as well as homeless patrons who visited the restaurant for every meal of the week. The location eventually limited the homeless to ‘a few meals a week.'”

    Houck noted further that over time Panera Cares officials became jaded by those who took advantage of the chain’s hospitality without recompense and as such the atmosphere among workers in the locations began to sour.

    “Patrons reported security guards roaming the entrance and ‘glaring at customers,'” Houck noted. “People working with at-risk residents described incidents during which they were rudely told off by managers for ‘abusing the system.'”

    “Others,” Houck added, “described situations in which visitors trying to participate in the pay-as-you-can system feeling shamed for not being able to afford the suggested donation amount.”

    In a statement to Bloomberg, Panera Bread officials said, “Despite our commitment to this mission, it’s become clear that continued operation of the Boston Panera Cares is no longer viable. We’re working with the current bakery-cafe associates affected by the closure to identify alternate employment opportunities within Panera and Au Bon Pain.”

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  • 23 Comments on "Panera Bread’s ‘pay what you can’ socialist program ends in abject failure as freeloaders cause stores to go broke"

    1. wow societal justice parasites destroying a program to help those less fortunate,.. imagine my lack of shock!

    2. Altruism – the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others. Homo Sapiens evolved by finding ways to survive when the odds were against them. Altruism is not a positive characteristic of Homo Sapiens, for the most part it doesn’t work, some would like it to but……

      • Good point.

        The CEO has basic misunderstandings about business and charity. His program took money from his business which could have been given to employees as pay & benefits.

    3. Hmmm…. have been watching decline at my local Panera’s in Jacksonville. Fewer pastry selections, smaller pastries…marked difference over past few years. Maybe unbeknownst we’ve all been supporting their socialism experiment.

      • I’ve noticed that same thing about the pastries at our local Panera in Port Richey, FL. And their prices have skyrocketed in the past 2-3 years. We only eat there when we earn a reward or when we receive a coupon (such as $2 off a soup, which is not such a great deal when they are charging $5.89 for a bowl of soup). I have observed them weighing out salads, which seems very chintzy to me. After reading this article, it sounds like the other Panera stores have been subsidizing this ridiculous, failed experiment. I have a feeling that they are going to drive themselves out of business in the next few years.

    4. How does someone, the CEO, this stupid make it to the top of a viable company. His leftist leanings cost the employees and shareholders money. They should ask for that money back.
      He can be “altruistic” with his money, but, typical of leftists, its other people’s money they want to be generous with.

    5. Again, socialism fails because they ran out of other people’s money.
      It seems strange that the homeless were the ones who were limited in their meals, while college students were still being fed.
      I guess you must feed those who you are currently indoctrinating in the ways of socialism or it is bad for the future of socialism.

    6. Trusting those without resources to pay whatever they could for meals was idiotic. Panera’s is a business, not a soup kitchen. This Panera failed experiment in welfare-based socialism will not deter leftists from pursuing the same failed goal for our country. They have become vocal in their admiration of Communism, and are now electing professed Communists to Congress—despite the clear failure of all Communist governments. Dems are on board with the New World Order’s plan for a one-world-government, socialist, controlled by elites, and, as in Venezuela, the wealthy ruling class—the dictator’s, their families, friends, and colleagues—will live in luxury, while the rest of the populace must survive on the few crumbs left for the impoverished lower classes. Panera failed, and the Democrats will also fail. Trump 2020!

    7. LOL! Too funny! I never went to business school and I could have saved them the trouble of having to fail at this! The Leftists NEVER learn…Ocrazio-Cortez will be on TV any moment explaining why Panera COULD succeed at this if they just did Socialism BETTER!

    8. Socialist leaders would have an easy fix. They would institute “Panera Cares” at all locations, pay reparations to some of those eating free, and force Panera to use only renewable energy. Problem solved.

    9. TexanForever Thompson | February 7, 2019 at 9:17 am | Reply

      LOLOLOL … Was there ever any doubt about how this would turn out? The saddest part is the socialist fools are probably too dumb to learn from it.

      Beto, Bernie, and Ocasio, … are you paying attention?

    10. Socialism’s biggest conceit is that it can change human nature. It can’t, and that is why socialism is always doomed to failure. Capitalism evolved to incorporate human nature and benefit from it. Capitalism may not be a perfect system, but it’s still the best one ever invented. It creates the most benefit for the greatest number of people.

    11. Memo to Ron Shaich: The regular Panera Bread is a confusing enough concept in the best of circumstances. For anyone to think that simply relying on patrons to ‘pay what they want’ is an insane thought. It might have made sense as a potential concept if you charged a very low fixed price ($3.00) per meal.

    12. The forgot the #1 part of Altruism..The GUN. They only needed to “encourage” the people to donate….THE GUN………Socialism only works with “persuasion”…THE GUN.

    13. I’m no socialist or political in any way, but the way I see it, Panera’s experiment indicates to me not so much the ‘failure of socialism’ as much as the lack of character of people raised in a capitalist system. Capitalists don’t like to share, and they tend to grab as much as they can at the expense of everyone else.

      • That’s why socialist have to kill so many selfish people to serve the lazy …250 million since the bolsheviks killed the Czar..yet you are confident it will work because some professor or Politician tells you they just didn’t do it right

    14. In 1980, soon after China opened up to the US in 1979 via Kissinger during the Nixon Administration, My wife, son, and I visited communist China for ten days.

      Mao Tse Tung had died in 1976 and China, while still operating under Mao’s residual influence, was just beginning to change. Deng Xiaoping had assumed paramount leadership in 1978 and was just beginning the process of transforming the system. The Chinese at that time continued to be told where they could/would live, and they were assigned to specific jobs in specific locations, families often spit in the process.

      Until then, China had what was called “Iron Rice Bowl,” a system by which every Chinese was guaranteed a minimal living based upon some minimum ration. We were informed that “Iron Rice Bowl” was at that time being phased out. The reason, to paraphrase, “Because too many were abusing it, not working but willing to do nothing and simply survive on the minimum ration.” In other words, too many freeloaders.

      The lesson I learned: Even the Chinese Communists woke to the fact of too many freeloaders when humans are afforded the chance to get something for nothing, even at near starvation levels.

    15. Ripping off Panera has been a pleasure

    16. 80% of the world population is below the level of integrity, meaning they either will not pay, or will pay a minimal but unfair amount. 20% will abide by the guidelines, and sometimes donate much more.

      As the 80% take over as primary clientele the 20% will eventually begin to avoid the location because there will be a naturally discordant vibration between the 2 segments. Result is a continued lowering of store income, and finally admittance that there is something wrong with the theoretical model.

    17. See what happens when the CEO drinks the Kool aid.

    18. Panera charging too much for soup.
      $8.99 compared to $4.99 at the local supermarket.

    19. Lionel Mandrake | February 7, 2019 at 8:05 pm | Reply

      One store was closed because students ate too much and paid nothing. And the Dems want us to bail out those malcreants of their student loan debt. I say fuck them.


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