Café of Sharing


Panera Bread has taken corporate social responsibility to a new level. Although the $3 Billion company donates more than $150 Million in food products each year, it wasn’t personal enough. Co-CEO and founder Ron Shaich has recently made it personal by setting up four Panera restaurants as “pay what you can” cafes.

The concept of pay-what-you-can for food is not a new one, but Panera Bread is putting its corporate weight behind the new initiatives, helping to feed people who need a little extra assistance. The company has just opened its fourth “Panera Cares” restaurant in Chicago; the three restaurants already in operation in other states are even turning a profit, which the company gives to social service organizations that provide job training for at-risk youth. Taking it one step further, the company then hires the youths to work at its restaurants. (The Panera Cares stores work under a Panera Bread Foundation initiative, allowing them to not worry about profitability.)

Pay-what-you-can initiatives are quite simple. At the counter, the menu lists “suggested donation.” Customers can pay the suggested rate, pay more, or pay less – all without any judgment or pressure. There isn’t even a cash register – just a donation box.  In a presentation to Sustainable Brands, CEO Shaich said that about 20% of the customers leave more money than the suggested donation, 60% pay the suggested donation amount, and 20% pay less.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. There are several videos which can be used to illustrate this case. (CEO presentation at Sustainable Brands, 20 min.) and (CBS news video, 3 min.)
  2. Ask students who has ever served in a food pantry or soup kitchen. What was their experience?
  3. Slides about the Panera Cares project are available at
  4. Discuss the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) with students. Ask what they think it means and how companies implement CSR.
  5. What should corporate responsibility be to society? Should they address societal problems? How can corporations address societal problems?
  6. Have students review the Panera Cares Web site:
  7. Divide students into teams. Have each team select a company to examine its CSR policies (check companies Web sites).
  8. Next, have each team select another company and design a CSR program for that company. What are the considerations to evaluate for the CSR programs?

Source:, 6/22/12, CBS News

Leave a comment

Filed under Classroom Activities

Leave a Reply