At least that’s what the company would have you believe. The bakery-style restaurant chain will be closing its last few donation-based locations, aptly named “Panera Cares,” after being unable to cover operating costs, according to the food news site Eater.
The last “Panera Cares” is scheduled to close in Boston on Feb. 15, according to the Nation’s Restaurant News.
The restaurant’s original concept was deceptively simple — menus would have no posted prices, instead offering a suggested donation amount. If able, visitors could pay that amount (or more) for their meal.
Those without the means to do so were given the meal for free or at an amount they could pay.
An archived version of the Panera Cares website from 2012 has almost no stipulations about what meals could be taken, or how frequently customers could cash in on the charity of others.
If you think that sounds ripe for abuse, you’re not alone.
As WBBM reported in October 2012, a local branch of Panera Cares seemed to inundate an area neighborhood with homeless people flocking to free restaurant food.
Longtime residents were understandably not happy with the crowds, the trash, and the hit their property values took.
It’s almost as if people respect something more if they’re financially invested in it.
Perhaps that’s why Panera Care’s current website lists a few basic rules that weren’t originally there.
“For guests who cannot meet our suggested donation amount or donate your fair share,” the company now stipulates, “we ask that you limit yourself to one entrée and a beverage per week.”
The restaurant even violates the golden rule of socialism, asking some patrons to actually work for their meal.
Customers unable to pay for food “may earn a meal voucher by volunteering for 1 hour per week in our community cafes.”
Considering the donation-based locations are now closing, these rules seem to be too little, too late.
Although originally aiming to address “food insecurity” in communities, the overwhelming toll of simply offering a product for free has brought this project to its knees.
“Despite our commitment to this mission, it’s become clear that continued operation of the Boston Panera Cares is no longer viable,” Panera Bread said in an emailed statement, according to the Nation’s Restaurant News.
“We’re working with the current bakery-cafe associates affected by the closure to identify alternate employment opportunities within Panera and Au Bon Pain.”
There’s a lesson to be learned here for politicians like Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and their devoted followers: Socialism fails not only at the national level, but at the community level as well.
Feeding the needy is best left to a system that’s been in place for millennia: voluntary charity.
Food pantries, soup kitchens and other charities — overwhelmingly rooted in Christian churches — have been around a lot longer than experiments like Panera’s.
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