Panera Bread has halted its newsmaking “pay what you can” test.
The company has announced it will discontinue the platform at 48 locations in the St. Louis area.
Kate Antonacci, Panera’s director of societal impact initiatives, told Nation’s Restaurant News about the decision:
“We view this test as successful…We were looking to learn what would happen when you put it into a larger market. … Our goals were to try to see if it was an effective way to feed people who are in need.”
This test was separate from the “Meal of Shared Responsibility” test in a number of large of U.S. cities where Panera Bread locations operate entirely on donations.
“What we saw as weeks turned into months, particularly as we pulled out some of the in-store communications that were up for about six weeks,” Antonacci said, “we were feeding less people who were in need. The program, without constant communication support, became almost invisible and participation in the program — both in people who were ordering it and in contributions — declined.”
She attributed some of the lack of interest to the locations of the Panera Breads and said those in need are less likely to patron them in middle and upper-income areas.
The program was financially sustainable and served approximately 15,000 Turkey chilli Bread Bowls, according to Antonacci.
In general, donations covered about 75% of the suggested $5.89 retail price.
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