Panera Bread Opens Non-Profit Community Cafe

DEARBORN, MI — The Panera Bread Foundation opened its second non-profit community cafe — called Panera Cares — yesterday in Dearborn, MI, and shared plans to open a third in Portland, OR, in early 2011. This expansion is the result of the concept’s success in Clayton, MO, where the first non-profit community cafe — called Saint Louis Bread Co. Cares — opened in May.

Panera Cares is a new kind of cafe — one that exemplifies an entirely different way of giving back. It is a community cafe of shared responsibility. One of the goals of this charitable program is to ensure that everyone who needs a meal gets one. People are encouraged to take what they need and donate their fair share. There are no prices or cash registers, only suggested donation levels and donation bins.

Panera Cares

Panera Cares Cafe - Panera's Dearborn Non-Profit Community Store is Second in the Nation

“The vision for the Panera Cares Cafe was to use Panera’s unique restaurant skills to address real societal needs and make a direct impact in communities,” explained Ron Shaich, Panera Bread‘s co-founder and Executive Chairman, and President of the Panera Bread Foundation. “Thus, the Foundation developed these community cafes to make a difference by addressing the food insecurity issues that affect millions of Americans.”

There are no prices or cash registers, only suggested donations and donation bins.

“At the end of the day,” Shaich said, “this community cafe isn’t about offering a hand out. It’s about offering a hand up to those who need it.”

Dearborn Panera Cares Cafe to Address Real Need

Dearborn, a Detroit suburb, was selected as the location of the second Panera Cares Cafe based on a diverse population of individuals who can sustain the cafe as well as individuals who may need a hand up.

“Given the economic challenges in the Greater Detroit area, opening a Panera Cares Cafe in this area was a natural choice,” said Shaich. “These cafes exist to make a difference by offering the Panera experience with dignity to all — those who can afford it, those who need a hand up, and everyone in between. We anticipate that Panera Cares will have a tremendous impact on the Dearborn community.”

Panera Bread - Dearborn, Michigan Avenue location - photo dated June 2008.

Panera Bread - Dearborn, Michigan Avenue location - photo dated June 2008

Third Location Planned in Greater Portland

A third Panera Cares Cafe is expected to open in Greater Portland in January 2011. Like other Panera Cares Cafe locations, the Hollywood-area cafe is easily accessible via public transportation and attracts an eclectic mix of customers, exuding a genuine neighborhood vibe.

About Panera Cares Cafes

Panera Cares is a program run by the Panera Bread Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. The Panera Cares Cafe menu is consistent with the traditional Panera Bread menu, however people are encouraged to take what they need and donate their fair share. There are no prices or cash registers, only suggested donation levels and donation bins.

At the end of the day, this cafe isn’t about offering a hand out. It’s about offering a hand up to those who need it. The cafes also offer the option of volunteering an hour of time in exchange for a meal. The Panera Cares Cafe model is designed to be self-sustaining with support from the community.

About the Panera Bread Foundation

Panera Bread Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. The Foundation accepts contributions through cash donations received in donation boxes located in Panera Bread bakery-cafes located throughout the United States, as well as in connection with its community cafe(s) operating under the name Panera Cares. The community cafes provide high quality food in a warm, inviting and comfortable environment. Panera Cares Cafes exist to make a difference by offering the Panera Bread experience with dignity to all — those who can afford it, those who need a hand up, and everyone in between.


  1. Ariel says

    A wonderful write up. This is a great example of what many large successful corporations can be doing to give back to the communities where they do business.

  2. Former Customer says

    The food is not as good as it was before the change. The bread we purchased from the racks, which is supposed to be fresh, was not. Don’t expect quality from this place. But, if you want a free meal, I guess it would be OK.

  3. Former Customer says

    The article got the opening date wrong. We were there on the 21st and it had already made the switch.

  4. Sabrina says

    It is so incredibly inspiring to see a large corporation giving back like this. I respect Panera so much for making the bold decision to this– possibly the first of its kind for a big company?? For commenters above me: this place was packed almost every time I’ve been in there and since there isn’t a Panera closer to Detroit, this is a great location. As for the quality, I’m sure it’s still great bread– but they’ve got to make cutbacks somewhere. I hope that citizens of the world understand the meaning of this and follow suit by doing their part in making a lasting positive change, no matter where you are.

  5. hsaleh says

    yeah great idea why not open one up in Detroit where people need it most not West Dearborn where if one will go around the block they will have difficulties finding a house for under 300K. or is this a way to get rid of the locally owned businesses.

    I guarantee you that if a hungry person walked into any family owned restaurant they will not walk out hungry.

    Support your locally owed small businesses NOT these corporate pigs.

  6. Dliz says

    This is a great idea, and hopefully people respect it by giving it a chance. Let’s make it work–maybe more will open in the Greater Detroit area if we do. I had it today–tasted the same to me!

  7. Carmen says

    Wow it is so sad to see negative comments on here. Panera is doing an amazing thing, giving a hand up to people who need it. Although it is not in the location you think it should be does not mean it is not an incredible idea. Unfortunately there are people out there that have to be negative. We need more people in the world like Ron Shaich, who is encouraging people to donate what they can and helping people who need it. Obviously Shaich knows what he is doing, the St. Louis Bread Co is doing great and has helped so many people.
    Of course, when someone does something admirable there has to be someone else out there that has to put there negative two cents in.
    God Bless Ron Shaich and everyone who is involved with Panera cares. We need more people like you!!! :)

  8. Inside Info says

    Just to let everyone know, all the pastries and bread at this cafe are from other area Panera bread cafe’s that didn’t sell from the previous day. That makes it day old baked goods, hence the “donation” part of the cafe. Please don’t pay full price for day old food. It’s all about the tax write-off and advertising. The public needs to know. Pass it on.

  9. Michele Schubot says

    Oh come on…THIS SHOULD BE IN DETROIT………………………………………….Yesterday on XM Ron Shaich said they had four of these and one was in Detroit…..He Lied…Im calling XM

  10. LindaSonia says

    Think this idea is ridiculous. Just make your donations to local food banks and be done with it. Dearborn is affluent enough that this effort is a waste of time. Are they even still open? Nothing wrong with day old goods, but were they honest in telling the public what it really was offering.

  11. JPF says

    Seems like a good idea to me. There are people who won’t donate just for the sake of donating (everyone tries to stick me for a $1 for something whenever I shop somewhere), but everyone needs to eat. If I’m expecting to pay $7 or $8 for lunch, if they give that to me for $5, that’s still $2-$3 that I’d planned to spend that I can give back… The net effect for me is $0, but for the community, it can be huge.

    Where is the negative in this????

  12. JG says

    I’m not sure why everyone believes the anonymous tipster about the day old goods bit. The Panera Cares location isn’t selling day old goods, it’s selling the same thing you would get at any Panera store. The commentary you may have read about Panera donating day old goods to soup kitchens and homeless shelters was an illustration of Panera’s other charitable endeavors. Panera Cares is not a soup kitchen.

    As for those who don’t understand why they chose Dearborn instead of other areas, Dearborn is an affluent enough area, where there are enough people willing and able to pay in the area, but there are still a good number of people who could use a little help. This isn’t the case in their Portland store which has been losing money, and has had trouble with people in the neighborhood treating it like a shelter.

    You have to find the right blend. Open one of these up an an overly impoverished area, and it won’t be open for very long. Sure you might feed alot of people for a few months, but then the doors close, and everybody is back to where they were.

    Open one up in an overly affluent area, and you’re giving back, but not to the people who need it most.

    In the right area, you draw in the crowd that knows, values, and can afford the food that Panera serves, but you also have the opportunity to help out those who are down on their luck, or just need a warm meal.

    Why attack a corporation trying to find another way to help out a community? Panera is not under any obligation to be charitable at all. Sure, there are tax incentives, but isn’t this why those tax incentives exist? To encourage corporations with deep pockets to help out the communities they serve? Instead of berating Panera in its efforts to try new things to help communities, why don’t we hassle the corporations who don’t give back?

  13. Laura says

    and actually i witnessed for the last 3 years panera trucks bringing bread and baked goods to a headstart school for kids from lower income families and filling tables and tabled full of bread and other goods that the kids and their families can take for free. all the negative comments are funny because those are the same people that arent contributing anything or helping out, just writing negative things about a company that does care and has backed up what they say. way to go panera!

  14. Food for Thought says

    For the first time I went to this place in Dearborn. I actually live outside of Dearborn and usually go to a different Panera, located near here. As a student man was I always in debt. Even now as a working individual, paying of student loan debt, rent, and debts it’s nice knowing I can go to a place have a “you pick two” with a drink and not feel horrible afterwards that I spent $10 on a meal like I did at the other Paneras. I’m not rich or even comfortable financially to say its ok to spend $10, but sometimes when I have work to do, Panera is where I can go get a good meal.
    Yes it’s a day old for loafs of bread and other things, but there’s also fresh items. The fact I can donate what I can rather than what I have to pay for regular prices is a thankful feeling. Although I feel awkward sometimes paying less, or even a few bucks when I know I should spend $10 is great. I’m an appreciative consumer.
    As the philanthropy idea behind it, aside from what was mentioned above, I volunteer Saturday mornings in a place in Detroit where TONS of bread is given to people either homeless or lacking any finances. So it is what it is, for me….I’ll go back.

  15. Food for Thought says

    After all that good talk I just said about them, I went today for coffee and bagels for work(I work at a non-profit) a woman AND THE LITTKE FAT MEXICAN at the cashier made me feel so pressured to put more money in the bin, by reiterating the cause and math and money stuff about my donation. Kiss my ass you prick that’s why I went there bc I want, but because I can’t afford to give more I didn’t. I don’t care if I ordered $50 and could only pay $5 take it and shove it. Now I want to go everyday and show you….

  16. Ms.TDiallo says

    I Fill that this is a real good thing you have done to give back to the community. I needed the meals you give, i’m in college in Dearborn,MI and working only parttime not having many means to get a healthly meal like the ones on your menu.

  17. mariam almozrouei says

    This place is stupid. They say its a “sugested donation” but they tell you how much to put and if you dont put enough they wont give you your food. especially that racist mexican guy. dont even know what his name is. hes short, fat, spiky black hair, ugly and has an attitude against muslims.