>CLAYTON, Mo. — Panera Bread Co. is asking customers at a new restaurant to pay what they want.
The national bakery and restaurant chain launched a new nonprofit store here this week that has the same menu as its 1,400 other locations. But the prices are a little different — there aren’t any. Customers are told to donate what they want for a meal, whether it’s the full suggested price, a penny or $100.
The new store in the upscale St. Louis suburb of Clayton is the first of what Panera hopes will be many in the nation. Ronald Shaich, Panera’s CEO until last week, was on hand at the new bakery Monday to explain the system to customers.
The pilot restaurant is run by a nonprofit foundation. If it can sustain itself financially, Panera will expand the model around the country within months. It all depends on whether customers will abide by the motto hanging above the deli counter: “Take what you need, leave your fair share.”