The Pay-What-You-Can Panera

A non-profit version called Panera Cares lets you set your own price for a meal. No strings attached, no weird looks.

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From The Boston Globe

A smiling employee greeted [recent grad Jonathan] Diotalevi at the door, he waited in line, ­ordered a tomato- mozzarella panini, and then asked the clerk, “So, can I, like, just give you two bucks?”

Yes, he could. And he did, dropping the money into a nearby donation bin.

The new location at Boston’s Government Center (near a homeless shelter) is one of five in the country – the others are in St. Louis, Detroit, Portland, and Chicago – that takes donations instead of payment. The goal is to help the less fortunate, but also treat them with dignity.

Representatives say 20 percent of customers end up purposely paying more than retail price. On average, customers pay about 70 percent of what they would at a regular Panera cafe.

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