Tuesday, May 18, 2010
My colleague Dan Kelly brought to my attention an MSNBC report that a nonprofit foundation associated with the Panera Bread Co. has opened a store in the upscale St. Louis suburb of Clayton with a novel business model - pay whatever you want. The restaurant's motto: "Take what you need, leave your fair share." Cashiers will tell customers what the normal price would be if asked, but remind them they do not have to pay. They direct customers to put anything they want to give into a donation jar. The stated plan is to see whether the restaurant, named St. Louis Bread Co. Cares, can be at least self-sustaining and, if it is, to open additional locations. The for-profit company will not be covering any of the costs of the new store. Any excess funds will go to community organizations, according to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch story on the same topic.
The story does not mention the foundation's name, but a Guidestar search reveals both a Panera Bread Foundation, Inc. and a Panera Bread Company, both listed as section 501(c)(3) public charities. The latter organization is coded as being involved with children and youth services and appears inactive, with no Forms 990 available. The first organization at first glance looks like a typical corporate foundation, with the 2008 Form 990 reporting about a million dollars in contributions to over 200 exempt organizations, except that it is a public charity based on over 50 percent public support reported. It is not clear if either entity is the one referred to in the article, although the President of the Panera Bread Foundation, Inc. (and until recently CEO of the for-profit company) is named as the person in change of the unnamed foundation mentioned in the media stories.