Restaurant's Socialist Experiment Falls Flat: Economics 'Did Not Make Sense'

As someone who went to college all four years in St. Louis, Missouri, I remember when Panera Bread Company, or as St. Louisans call it, St. Louis Bread Co., opened a new kind of store in the upscale St. Louis suburb of Clayton, Missouri.


The concept was “pay what you want.” The idea was that it would allow patrons of lower income levels to eat there, all while the customers of upper-income status would presumably make up for what others did not or could not pay. I was skeptical of the idea back then but optimistic that people would pay what they owed.

I’m sad to say that I was sorely mistaken.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported earlier this month that after seven years in business, the restaurant in Clayton will soon close its doors because “the nature of the economics did not make sense,” according to Ron Shaich, founder and executive chairman for Panera, said.

The St. Louis store is the fourth Panera location of its kind to close. “Pay what you can afford” or “pay your fair share” locations also opened in Chicago, Dearborn, Mich., Portland, Ore., and Boston. However, all of those locations, save Boston, are now out of business.

The newspaper noted that’s because, on average, most patrons paid only about 85 percent of the actual value of the food they were getting. In other words, Panera lost 15 percent per transaction for seven years. While 85 percent might seem like a generous amount, Panera is still a business and, news flash, it’s in the business of making money, not losing it.


As if society needed a reminder that socialism, however good its intentions, doesn’t work, this latest example seems to prove that very point. Yet, nevertheless, we see the far-left wing of the Democratic Party rising up to “reclaim its time,” if you will.

But perhaps what America really needs is to reclaim the Capitalist traditions, which are responsible for making this country the wealthiest in the history of the world. Americans want to stay open for business for centuries to come, not close our doors after several years.

Ask any former employee of Panera’s socialist experiment and they’ll probably tell you the same.


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