Posted by: amylamb | May 20, 2010

Panera’s Nonprofit: Can it work?

There’s been a lot of talk about this new bakery in the past week, so I did some research. Apparently, Panera has opened a nonprofit branch with no prices and a  tagline of, “Take what you need, leave your fair share.” Though I applaud Panera’s decision to take the risk, I am troubled with the statement of one nonprofiteer in this article: “It somehow stays in balance. I think ultimately people are good. They want to contribute.”

That’s awfully nice of her, but that’s not what I learned in Sunday School.
So, what do you think? Can it work based on the assumption that people are good when, biblically, we are not?
Is there another assumption (such as the 20/80 principle) that can make it work?
Ultimately, how can a business maintain a biblical attitude of giving?

Talk to me, people.



  1. But you will have those nice businessmen who will throw in a $100…

  2. Rebecca, you’re right. This is what I was thinking on the 20/80 principle – that 20 percent of your clientele will generate 80 percent of your profits. At least, Panera should certainly hope so.

  3. People are naturally bad… born in a selfish sin-nature inherited from Adam. However, once they have been born again into Christ, they are naturally good because they are a new creation and have His personality .

    Any society that is mostly good has been influenced by God-loving people (like the USA). Any society that is mostly bad has been influenced by God-hating people (like Rwanda, Communist Russia, Nazi Germany or Ancient Rome). The only successful organic (non-mandated or communist) sharing that works is based on God’s love not idealism.

    Acts 2:42-47 tells of believers caring for each other and sharing without anyone making them. In vs. 44 it starts “All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.”

    Again in Acts 4:32 it says, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.”

    That’s what is what should be happening in our churches. That’s where deacons first came from. Caring for the saints.

  4. From a business/profit perspective it seems almost nuts…yet, it seems to me that Panera is actually trying to increase their clientele AND spread a particular ideology. I agree with Andrew, the generosity of people in Western world, though not Christian, is based on many of the teachings of Christianity. Yes, the 80/20 principle will get you the majority of your profits…but will that be enough? It seems to me that this shift may be Panera trying to make a definitive anthropological statement on the nature of man.

    But man can be moral and be evil. Its not morality that defines a Christian it is a recognition and acceptance of totally different definition of goodness altogether…the holiness and love of God.

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