We’ve stolen enough from America in recent year muffins, giant cookies, glazed doughnuts, cupcakes, whoopie pies. Why not nick the latest bakery retail concept that is quite literally a steal? A few months ago, Stop the Week picked up on a ’Pay what you like’ experiment carried out by the US’ largest bakery chain Panera Bread. The idea was a bakery-café social enterprise, whereby the well-off coughed up the asking price or more, while the poorer got a cheap or free deal.
The verdict from the trial at Clayton, Missouri is now in: bakery customers are not a bunch of scroungers. It is now planning to roll out the model around the country, with at least two more openings planned.
How it works:
l customers are told a suggested price for their order, as it would appear if purchased from the menu
l 60-70% of people paid in full
l 15% paid a little more and 15% paid less, or nothing at all
l some gave chunky donations, such as $20 for a coffee
l the trial store made $100,000 in revenue in its first month, which would soon cover costs before contributing extra cash for charity.
It trades as a charity under the St Louis Bread Co Cares banner and Panera wouldn’t incur losses if the experiment collapsed. Locations are said to be "upscale but accessible to lower-income customers". Signs remind freeloaders, "You’re on your honor," while workers explain the concept is "not a handout".
"I guess I would say it’s performing better than we even might have hoped in our cynical moments, and it’s living up to our best sense of humanity," said Ronald Shaich, chairman of the chain, which coincidentally has the same number of stores as Greggs around 1,400. An omen?