Panera store in St. Louis to customers: Pay what you want!

The AP reports that a new Panera Bread shop location in Clayton, Mo., an upscale St. Louis suburb, has no prices on its menu. The nonprofit store has the same menu as the chain's 1,400 other locations, but customers are asked to simply pay what they choose for their meal, a la Radiohead, our very own Jeremy Messersmith, and several other restaurants around the country (Karma Kitchen in Berkeley, Calif. and Washington D.C., etc.)

A sign above the counter says: "Take what you need, leave your fair share." If the new shop can sustain itself financially, Panera plans to expand the model around the country later this year to have a nonprofit location in every community in which it operates.

When the AP reporter visited, customers seemed pleased, but a little confused when cashiers told them "about" what their order would cost and then directed them towards the donation jar. The clientele at the Clayton shop is a mix of well-to-do and lower-income customers and so far, most customers have been paying full price, but some paid a few dollars less.

It's an interesting concept, which might allow those who otherwise couldn't afford Panera the chance to dine (and, from a marketing perspective, become grateful, loyal, full-paying customers should their incomes rise). If Panera opened a similar shop in the Twin Cities, how much would you pay for your soup and sandwich? The asking price? Less? More?

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