'Panera Cares' opens its doors in Government Center

Posted: 01/23/13 at 6:20 pm EST      Last Updated: 01/23/13 at 6:43 pm EST

BOSTON (WHDH) -- Panera has made its profits selling panini sandwiches and soups -- but their newest shop, which opened Wednesday, has decided to share their good fortune.

The revolutionary restaurant in Government Center has no set prices. It’s called the "Panera Cares" community cafe.

“This is the same experience you’re going to get at any Panera in America. The only difference is there is no cash registers; there’s a donation box,” said Ron Shaich, founder and co-CEO, Panera Bread.

Customers are given the option to pay what they think the food is worth. If someone doesn't have money, they are offered the option of volunteering at the non-profit cafe in exchange for a meal.

At the beginning, some wondered if this kind of business plan could actually work.

“You know what's amazing? People do the right thing. When we opened for the first time, one of the questions I had was, ‘would people step up and take care of each other?’ Not everybody does it right, but most people do,” said Shaich.

This latest restaurant is the fifth of its kind in the United States, and first on the East Coast.

People 7News spoke with say they would pay more than what was suggested.

“It’s great. I got a hot tea, it was $1.75, I gave them $5,” said Paul Craney, a customer.

“I can afford it I guess so if I went in there I’d probably pay a little bit more because I’d feel like they need the money,” said Mike Dixon.

Other people who don't go to regular Paneras often because of the prices are excited about the new addition to the neighborhood.

“I do feel like I can do this because I can pay with what I have,” said Heidi Walsh.

Panera says it created the unique non-profit restaurant to address the issue of hunger in the country.

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