Panera Launches First Nonprofit Cafe

What will they think of next? Ron Shaich, the former CEO of Panera Bread has come up with a novel concept that bridges the divide between philanthropy and the food service industry, that of the "non-profit restaurant." Shaich has transformed a St. Louis restaurant into the Saint Louis Bread Company Cares Cafe. Customers are given receipts with the amount their order is worth, but in lieu of actually paying for food, they are referred to a donation box. If customers can't donate monetarily, they are asked to give their time. Shaich sees this as the Next Big Thing in restaurantdom: "My hope is that we can eventually do this in every community where there's a Panera," he says. Not everyone, however, has bought into the scheme's greatness. Marian Salzman, a trends consultant, told USA Today, "I don't think the honor bar system will work nationally...While young people are very much attuned to helping out and making a difference, if they find themselves sitting next to other customers with whom they don't feel comfortable, they're not coming back."