Panera Bread and Clockface Cafe: Changing Paradigms


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Panera is trying out a new way to pay at pay-what-you-can-afford Cafes. Image courtesy of Panera Bread Foundation.

Panera is trying out a new way to pay at pay-what-you-can-afford Cafes. Image courtesy of Panera Bread Foundation.

Customers order food and pay for it.  That is how a cafe works.  Paying for food consumed has been the norm for centuries.  In some corners of the world, however, that model is changing.

A set way we see the world is termed a “paradigm” by sociologists.  But Panera Bread and Clockface Cafe are changing the way restaurants are viewed.  Panera wants to  draw attention to food insecurity and train young people who are at-risk,  while Clockface wants to challenge our concept of what is of value when we eat away from home.

Donations for Food at Panera Bread

Panera opened a fifth ‘pay-what-you-can-afford’ cafe in Boston in January 2013.  The first Panera cafe without set prices  was built in 2010 in St. Louis.  Not only is the food provided in exchange for donations or volunteer labor, at-risk youth are trained in restaurant work at the Panera’s cafes.  In an exclusive interview with Decoded Science, Kate Antonacci, Project Manager, Panera Bread Foundation explains, “Panera Cares has always been about leveraging Panera’s core competencies to make a greater difference in the world.”  Instead of writing checks, Panera is sharing what it is uniquely suited to provide… food-service training and food insecurity awareness.

Training At-Risk Youth in Food Service

The job training focuses on what the company knows best, food service. Antonacci reports that the aim of the company is to equip interns ” with the skills they need to be hirable. Each intern is certified in positions we would certify our own employees in – working a cash register, prepping food, serving guests, washing dishes. With these skills, the participants have a better shot at making a life for themselves as a working, contributing member of society. Because our desire was to set our interns up for long-term success in the world, we have partnered with groups like Covenant House in St. Louis and Youth Progress in Portland…”

Community Involvement and Panera Bread

Panera’s press release states that the company provided one million dollars to build the cafe, but now “All consumers have to do is cover its direct operating costs.” A skeptical branding specialist, Rob Frankel, is quoted in a Fox Business article as saying, “It’s a transparent publicity ploy.”

But, if the company’s website is any indication, the move may be a hit with the general public.  A customer from Dearborn Michigan gushes, “Thank you for the wonderful idea. Your actions prove you care. I will continue to support your caring Panera. Thank you and God Bless your generosity that is very appreciated.

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