When Big Companies Do Good Things

I make a concerted effort to shop locally. I love the little yarn store located in far south Seattle and just up the road from me. (Jessie knits, I’m not that interesting.) I try and buy my greeting cards and various sick remedies at the local drug store here in town. I make it a point to try the various local restaurants on a semi-regular basis…when Budge is sleeping or not paying attention.

I try to shop locally…I try hard. Sometimes it’s a little too difficult to pass by a national company for a local place when the big guy is trying earnestly to do good things. I understand the need to keep as much money local as possible, I really do, but I like giving money to companies which are trying to do the right thing.

Panera Bread is a company I have enjoyed visiting (I love some of their bakery items, I know, shocking) and I’m starting to really respect them for what they are trying to do now. Panera started under the name Au Bon Pain and, through acquisitions, has grown to over 1600 restaurants/bakeries in 44 states and one foreign country; if you consider Canada a foreign country.

While living near Portland, Oregon last year, Janet and I went to one of their ‘Panera Cares Community Café Experiment’ because we had read about it in our little local paper. What a great idea: here was a restaurant where you could pay whatever you could afford. If you are short on funds, you don’t have to pay anything. If you have extra money, you can give more to help offset the free meals.

I loved it. What a great way for people to eat with dignity. I read, somewhere at some point, that sixty percent of patrons pay the suggested amount and the rest are split evenly between paying more and paying less for the food. This is something I want to see succeed: a company who understands the concept of making money but also wants to help in the fight against hunger. No one should go hungry, especially not here in the states.

We only went the one time, I’m sorry to say, because we seemed to be in a ‘Hey! Let’s move again!’ phase in our lives. Now we don’t live near a Panera Cares Café but I do want to go to a regular Panera just to give my support to a company I’m starting to admire. That and I really like their flower cookie.

I like them even more since I read a story about Panera Cafes in the St. Louis area. Instead of the whole restaurant being in the pay-what-you-can mode, these cafes introduced the ‘Meal of Shared Responsibilities Program’. The meal is a turkey chili bowl and you pay however much you would like for that meal.

I like the idea so much I’m willing to fly to St. Louis to show my support. Hmmm…what was that noise? It was either the budget crying or Janet laughing hysterically at me. They both do that a lot when I’m around. I would do it, though, just to show Panera how much I like what they are trying to do. I’ve never been to St. Louis either: two birds, Janet, just the one stone!

I also am starting to realize that not all big companies are horrible and to be avoided at all costs. They still provide jobs to locals, they pay taxes (I hope) to our community and, sometimes, they try and make our little world a much better place. I’m not saying Panera is perfect, I don’t know how they treat their employees, but I can say I like what Panera is trying to accomplish. I want to give money to companies who are trying to do good things.  I know exactly how they feel.



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