Small businesses aren’t the only ones hurting in this fragile economy. Non-profit organizations have been feeling the pressure increase over the past few years. In 2008, charitable donations began to fall about 3% each year, a significant amount in an industry whose consumers have very little resources. Food pantries and clothing donation stores have been under stocked with very little inventory, as demand for assistance with basic living essentials increases. Free health clinics are receiving fewer supplies, while more consumers sit in waiting rooms hoping for medical care. Businesses and individuals are giving less to charity organizations due to their own wallets being lighter than ever. A Saint-Louis based restaurant chain, Panera Bread, is on a mission to play a key role in the non-profit industry.
A local Panera restaurant in Clayton, Missouri has converted to a pay-what-you-want menu. There are no set fees for any of the food items and patrons are free to pay what they can for food. The menu features “suggested funding levels” that equal retail cost of the item. The idea is that there are some days when people can afford to pay more for their meal, and other days less. Their hope is that people will pay a little extra when possible, in order to raise money to feed the less fortunate. Panera founder and Chairman Ronald Shaich said, ” “We were doing this for ourselves to see if we could make a difference with our own hands, not just write a check, but really make a contribution to the community in a real, substantive way.”
Panera has been involved in charity work for years providing leftover food to locals in need and donating profits to charitable organizations. The local chain is excited by the participation of the community and notes that people seem to enjoy contributing. Panera founder Ronald Shaich took a chance on humanity, and they delivered. He urges other businesses to join his efforts to make a difference in their local community.