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Panera Closes Last Pay-What-You-Can Restaurant in Boston | Eater

Nine years after introducing pay-what-you-can restaurants to several U.S. cities, Panera Bread is admitting defeat and closing down its last remaining non-profit Panera Cares location. The Massachusetts restaurant will shutter on February 15, according to Eater Boston.

The chain opened its first donation-based community cafe in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2010. Under the model championed by the company’s founder Ron Shaich, the restaurant operated like a typical Panera, but offered meals at a suggested donation price, with the goal of raising awareness about food insecurity. “In many ways, this whole experiment is ultimately a test of humanity,” Shaich said in a TEDx talk later that year. “Would people pay for it? Would people come in and value it?” It appears the answer is a resounding no.

At its peak, Panera Cares operated five locations, including ones in Dearborn, Michigan; Portland, Oregon; Boston, and Chicago. Each restaurant was designed to sustain itself, but the restaurants weren’t financially viable. The Portland-based Panera Cares was reportedly only recouping between 60 and 70 percent of its total costs. The losses were attributed 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.”

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Panera Closes Last Pay-What-You-Can Restaurant in Boston – Eater.