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Eat As-What-You-Need, Pay As-What-You-Want

Panera Bread in a St. Louis suburb is different from other Panera Bread Restaurants. This eatery refuses customers payments. Customers are asked to “take what you need, leave your fair share in wood-and-plexiglass lockboxes.”

According to Stephanie Strom’s report in New York Times, there are about 12 “pay-as-what-you-want” operations in the U.S. These restaurants provide free or low-cost food and operate with donations. This concept was initiated under the influence of “social entrepreneurship,” where restaurants keep enough money to cover operation expenses and leave the extra to “help needed people by feeding them or giving them jobs.” Does it work? Here are the examples of some customers:

· Two unemployed workers donated their labors by volunteering in the restaurant.
· A music promoter, paid 50 cents extra for a $5.48 “suggested funding level” for a potato soup and soda.
· Two college students left $15 for a meal with a suggested price of $24.95.
· A few people took advantage of such operations.

This concept does not seem to survive in some locations. Stephanie could not reach some of those restaurants anymore --- probably they are closed. Several operations have made modifications, for example, offering “pay-as-what-you-want” once a week only or providing low-cost meal or entrée. Some people believe this concept can survive in selective locations with community supports. What are your opinions of this concept?

References:
New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/21/us/21free.html
Picture was downloaded from: http://www.panerabread.com/about/careers/

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