A recent report by the Johns Hopkins Listening Post Project, Nonprofits, Innovation, and Performance Measurement: Separating Fact From Fiction, reveals that there are widespread efforts in U.S. nonprofits to innovate. Driving that point home is the recent phenomenon of nonprofit restaurants.
The first I heard about the nonprofit restaurant model came from Charleston, W.Va., where restaurateur Virgil Sadorra opened his nonprofit restaurant, Practically Delish, a few weeks ago. The concept is truly remarkable. Instead of making a profit, Practically Delish donates all proceeds after overhead to local charities, a different one each month, to support the community.
In a May 17 article on StateJournal.com, Janessa Spence, a local school teacher who was so blown away by Sadorra’s upstart idea that she became an investor and owner in the restaurant, said, “These are our neighbors. This is our community. This is where we live. We’ve got to help out people and do all that we can to help support these nonprofits that are able to reach out and help these people in need.”
The first charity of choice for Practically Delish is Gabriel Project, a nonprofit that provides baby supplies to mothers in need. What an incredible idea.
Just a couple days later, I heard Panera Bread was launching a similar initiative, opening a chain location where patrons pay what they want, with proceeds going to support nonprofit work. The new store, located in the St. Louis suburb of Clayton, Mo., does not have any prices. Diners are simply given a receipt with the suggested food price (the normal price on the Panera menu), and they are free to pay whatever they’d like by placing money in the donation jar. It’s a concept that is baffling and enterprising all at once.
Ronald Shaich, Panera’s CEO until last week, took the post of executive chairman and is in charge of running Panera’s nonprofit. According to the AP story, the pilot restaurant is run by the nonprofit foundation, and if it can sustain itself, Panera will expand the model around the country. It ultimately would like to open similar locations in every community where it operates.