• Why do Panera Cares® community cafes exist?

    Panera Cares community cafes were created, very simply, to make a difference. We are a nonprofit community cafe concept of shared responsibility operated by the Panera Bread Foundation, a Section 501(c)(3) public charity. Panera Cares community cafes are designed to help raise awareness about the very serious and pervasive problem of food insecurity (hunger) in the U.S. Consider this: according to the United States Department of Agriculture, 49 million people – including 16 million children – are food insecure. That means that 1 in 7 households have difficulty providing enough food for all their members at some time during the year.

  • When did the program begin and how long has it been operating?

    Discussions about creating a solution to food insecurity began in the summer of 2009. Nine months later, The Panera Bread Foundation opened its first Panera Cares community cafe. The first location opened on May 16, 2010 in Clayton, MO. Since then, additional community cafes have opened in Dearborn, MI and Boston, MA. These cafes are operated by the Panera Bread Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity.

  • How do these cafes work?

    Panera Cares community cafes operate on a pay-what-you-can model and depend on your donations and support to ensure our sustainability. Panera Cares community cafes provide suggested donation amounts for all menu items to help you understand the cost of “paying it forward” and assisting those who struggle with food insecurity.

    -The suggested donation listed on the menu panel is the retail value of the meal and reflects the amount we need to cover operating expenses while also covering the cost of the meals for those who come in to our cafes and are unable to contribute for their meal. We ask that those who are able contribute that amount do so.

    -For guests who cannot meet our suggested donation amount or donate your fair share, we ask that you limit yourself to one entrée and a beverage per week. This limitation helps enable us to continue to serve the community.

    -If you are unable to contribute for your meal, you may earn a meal voucher by volunteering for 1 hour per week in our community cafes. We are not designed to be a permanent solution for those facing food insecurity, so if you are in need of additional services, please visit our resource area for more information.

    -We also ask that, as a general matter, meals provided to those who cannot contribute the full suggested donation amount are consumed in the community cafes as a means of building community.

  • How are these cafes doing?

    We serve approximately 600,000 people each year from our three Panera Cares community cafe locations. A goal of the Panera Cares community cafe concept is to be self-sustaining – meaning that our locations generate enough donations to cover operating costs while also covering the cost of the meals for those who come in and are unable to contribute the suggested donation amount for their meals. Currently, we bring in about 70-75% of what would otherwise be the retail value of the food. To achieve this number, we estimate that about 60% of people leave the suggested donation, 15-20% leave more and 15-20% leave less or nothing. As well, because of our impact and relationships within the communities we serve, we have been able to launch job training programs in many of our locations and have already graduated dozens from these programs.

  • How do you choose your locations?

    We look for economically diverse neighborhoods that are accessible to people from all walks of life. We need to be accessible to folks who can contribute to these cafes while also being accessible to those people who are in need of a meal today. We look for locations that are on public transit lines and have a mix of residential and business populations.

  • Why did you close cafes in Chicago and Portland?

    The Foundation always thought of this non-profit donation-based model as a social experiment, but the hope was to try to make a bigger difference in specific cities by feeding people in need with dignity, raising the level of awareness about food insecurity in this country and providing a vehicle for people to help one another.

    The Panera Bread Foundation and the team at the Panera Cares Community Cafes in Chicago and Portland were humbled by the support we received.

    That said, our lease in Chicago expired in early 2015 and the Foundation decided that it did not make sense to renew it due to changing economics. With the overall cost of rent and major investments needed to improve the site, it was not a sensible option for the Foundation. In mid-2016, we faced a similar situation in Portland with our lease nearing its end and with the recent sale of our Portland operations to our franchisee.

  • Where does the money go?

    A goal of the Panera Cares community cafe concept is to be self-sustaining – meaning that our locations generate enough donations to cover operating costs while also covering the cost of the meals for those who come in and are unable to contribute the suggested donation amount for their meals.
    Another goal of the Panera Cares community cafes is to leverage other resources and available competencies (space, people, time) to make an even bigger impact in the communities in which we operate. One way we have done this is through the creation of direct programming, such as job training programs with local schools and other non-profit organizations.

  • What is the volunteer option?

    When we opened our first Panera Cares community cafe, we quickly realized that many people wanted to contribute to our cause even if they were unable to do so monetarily. We created a way for people to give and become part of our community even if they could not give through a donation. If a guest is unable to leave a monetary contribution, we may, in some instances, offer the option of volunteering one hour of time working in our cafes in exchange for a meal. This allows increased participation in the responsibility of operating Panera Cares community cafes and do their part to impact our sustainability.

  • What does ‘suggested donation’ mean?

    We list suggested donation amounts on our menu boards to give guests an idea of what the food would be priced at a Panera Bread® bakery cafe location. The suggested donation amount is the retail value of the meal and conveys to our guests what the food is worth.

  • Can I leave my donation with a credit card?

    Yes, the associate taking your order will tell you your suggested donation amount and you are able to use a credit card to leave a donation. You may leave the suggested amount or more if you are able and would like to help share a meal with someone else today.

  • Why do I have to donate more?

    You do not have to donate more. We simply ask that you leave what you can to support our work. If you’re able to contribute a bit more, know that that will help feed those who come in to these community cafes and are unable to donate the full suggested donation for their food. Our goal is for the concept to be self-sustaining so that the cafes can continue to operate as resources in these communities.

  • Is there sales tax?

    No. There is no sales tax applied to guest donations.

  • Do Panera Cares community cafes offer free Wi-Fi?

    Yes. Panera Cares community cafes should feel much the same as any Panera Bread® bakery cafe and free WiFi is still part of the experience!