Panera Cares Cafe opens in Chicago

The Panera Bread Foundation opened its fourth non-profit community cafe – called Panera Cares – today in Chicago. The cafe’s debut in the Windy City comes on the heels of three successful community cafe launches in Clayton, MO, Dearborn, MI and Portland, OR over the past two years.

The newest Panera Cares cafe is located at 616 W. Diversey Parkway in Chicago. Like the other Panera Cares cafes, the Chicago location is easily accessible via public transportation and expects to attract an eclectic mix of economically diverse customers, exuding a genuine neighborhood vibe.

Panera Cares is a new kind of cafe – one that exemplifies an entirely different way of giving back. It is a community cafe of shared responsibility. One of the goals of this charitable program is to help ensure that everyone who needs a meal gets one and to raise the level of awareness about food insecurity in the country.

“It is a combination of the generosity of Chicagoans and the community needs that make the city ideal for our newest Panera Cares cafe,” Ron Shaich, Founder, Chairman and co-CEO of Panera Bread Company, and President of the Panera Bread Foundation says. “Opening a new Panera Cares community cafe brings the Panera experience with dignity to all – those who can afford it, those who need a hand up, and everyone in between.”

At Panera Cares, there are no prices or cash registers, only suggested donation levels and donation bins. 

“The vision for the Panera Cares cafe is to use Panera’s unique restaurant skills to address real societal needs and make a direct impact in communities,” said Shaich. “The Foundation developed these community cafes to make a difference by helping to address the food insecurity issues that affect millions of Americans.”

Panera Cares also offers a volunteer program for those without the means to donate for a meal.

“It’s important that we find ways for the community to support our Panera Cares cafe, even if someone is unable to do so monetarily,” Shaich says. “That’s the purpose of our volunteer program. A customer can help out around the cafe for one hour and receive a meal voucher at the end of that hour. It’s a way to add to the dignity of the experience while still encouraging people to contribute to our mission through their time.”

Looking ahead, Panera Cares in Chicago expects to add more programs to serve the community, like a job training program for at-risk youth in the community.