Panera Bread is closing up its last pay-what-you-can cafe in Boston, admitting that the experiment aimed to combat hunger was “no longer viable.”
Nine years after the sandwich chain launched Panera Cares locations across the country, where customers could pay a voluntary amount or nothing at all for a meal, the company announced Monday that the experiment was coming to an end.
“During its six years in operation, we served meals with dignity to everyone who walked through our doors,” Panera Bread said in a statement, Boston.com reported. “Despite our commitment to this mission, it’s become clear that continued operation of the Boston Panera Cares is no longer viable.”
The Boston location was the last remaining Panera Cares cafe in the country, following closures in Chicago, Clayton, Mo., Portland, Ore., and Dearborn, Mich. The Boston cafe will remain open until Feb. 15.
“The Panera Bread Foundation and our Boston team have been humbled by those community members who have embraced our mission to help fight food insecurity and supported the Boston Panera Cares community cafe,” the company’s statement continued.
“Panera remains dedicated to our other long-term philanthropic programs, like Day-End Dough-Nation, which donates $100 million worth of retail goods annually to feed those in need nationwide,” it said. “We’re working with the current bakery-café associates affected by the closure to identify alternate employment opportunities within Panera and Au Bon Pain. Panera is committed to ensuring a smooth transition for all associates.”