APCO manager Andrea Shatzman is the resident “foodie” in our CR practice. This recent news caught her eye and I asked her to share her thoughts about it.
Corporate executives trying encore careers in the nonprofit sector isn’t new. (In fact, APCO client Microsoft is probably responsible for dozens of them – most famously Bill Gates, but also social entrepreneur great John Wood, founder of Room to Read.)
Free lunch? I love it already. The former Panera-owned restaurant in St. Louis is re-opening as a nonprofit called Saint Louis Bread Company Cares Café. And instead of paying for your sandwich, you make a donation – whatever you can afford to give. If you can’t afford to give money, you’re encouraged to give your time. If this nonprofit restaurant is successful, Shaich is already planning new locations to be called “Panera Cares Cafes.”
This “pay-it-forward” model has succeeded before at the grassroots level. Karma Kitchen (a similar get-a-meal, make-a-donation model), held at several restaurants each Sunday in Washington, D.C., is immensely popular, particularly among young people who frequent it for food and for volunteer opportunities. And it’s only a little over a year old.
Can this kind of effort inspire the same local embrace when backed by a major restaurant chain? How will it impact Panera’s business model? Developing a mirror-image chain of nonprofit restaurants is an interesting concept. I’m looking forward to seeing how the experiment plays out and, if it works, what other companies might follow.