Panera Bread recently opened a new location in Clayton, Missouri, an upscale suburb of St. Louis.  It doesn’t sound like news, but this Panera is different from the rest.  It’s nonprofit, meaning that they do not charge for their food.  Customers are asked to donate whatever they want, anything from a penny to the suggested retail price to $1,000 an item.  Their motto is “Take what you need, leave what’s fair.” 

This particular Panera location is called St. Louis Bread Co. Cares, the original name of the Panera chain, and is supported by the Panera Foundation.  The foundation will pay all costs, including food, salaries, equipment and rent.  If this goes well, they plan to begin opening others across the country within months and eventually have one in every community where they currently have Panera stores.

Will it work or will they be out of business within a week?  What kind of lessons can we (or our government) learn from their success or failure?