Reporter's Notebook

Panera opens 5th non-profit cafe

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The Panera Bread Foundation on Wednesday opened its fifth non-profit Panera Cares restaurant, this one in Boston.

The Boston café follows openings in Chicago and Detroit as well as Portland, Ore., and St. Louis, Mo. The first one opened in Missouri in May 2010.

Ron Shaich at Boston Panera Cares openingIt’s bringing the idea home for Ron Shaich (pictured at left during the Boston opening), founder, chairman and co-chief executive of Panera Bread and president of the Panera Bread Foundation.

“I have lived in the Boston area for over 30 years and opened my first restaurant at Downtown Crossing, just blocks from our new Panera Cares location,” Shaich said. 

 “This community cafe is a gift to the community that was funded by Panera,” Shaich said. “All of the build-out costs – nearly $1 million – were covered by the company. Panera donated the cafe to the Panera Bread Foundation and will operate it on behalf of the foundation. Now that the site is open, it’s up to the community to sustain it."

The Panera Cares pay-what-you-can model has no set prices and no cash registers. For those without the means to donate for a meal, the Panera Cares cafe also offers a volunteer program.

Shaich said volunteers “can help perform basic front-of-the-house roles (like cleaning tables, sweeping, etc.) for one hour and receive a meal voucher at the end of that hour. It’s a way to add to the dignity of the experience while still encouraging people to contribute to our mission through their time.”

The 4,500 square foot bakery-cafe in Boston employs more than 40 associates and managers. Vendors also contributed to the effort.

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