Panera Bread Company is Teaching us to Pay It Forward

Have you seen that wonderful Liberty Mutual TV commercial showing good deed after good deed?  The idea of paying good deeds forward has certainly been around forever.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said “In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody.”

The idea of “paying it forward” is not always second nature in business, but Panera Bread is experimenting with a “pay-what-you-want” café in suburban St. Louis and Panera founder and Chairman Ronald Shaich said the café, operated through Panera’s charitable foundation, has been a big success.

According to the Washington Post and the Associated Press, there are now three Panera Cafés, and more planned to open this year, that allow patrons to pay what they want for their meal.  Of course there are the occasional free loaders taking advantage of the system, but peer pressure and human nature is the only governor required.

Every company I meet looks for ways to make positive contributions to their community and society.  Congratulations to Panera Bread Company for giving us a great example.

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