Pay What You Want Business Strategy

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By: Center For Worklife - Expert Reviewer

Pay What You Want Business Strategy

Successful businesses are those that are responsive to customer needs and make socially responsible decisions. Sometimes the trick lies in the balance to achieve those goals. New ideas are always on the rise, but the most emotionally intelligent ideas which incorporate a win-win approach promise the best results. Panera’s recent Pay-What-You-Want (reminiscent of the movie “Pay it forward”) business strategy experiment is one such idea worth noting.

Forty-eight St. Louis Bread Co. cafes in the St. Louis area are now offering their Turkey Chili for a suggested price of $5.89. This is a ground breaking new concept Panera affectionately calls “The Meal of Shared Responsibility.” Any above cost proceeds go to pay for customers who cannot pay the full price amount and local charity hunger initiatives for those in need. While the results of an experiment like this remain to be seen, the principles behind the idea are brilliant for a number of reasons.

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Table of Contents

Pay What You Choose EI Principles:

Retooling the standard suggestion box:

While this initiative offers customers the chance to “pay it forward,” the strategy also assists with innovative market research. Although, it is realistic to note that not all customers will make their payment decision based on charity, and not everyone will be paying less due to insufficient funds, this methodology is useful for the business to assess the meal value from a customer stand point.

Putting the customer first:

Most of the time customers are in a hurry to get their food and rush in and out of the line. Seeing that a menu item has a suggested price is an opportunity for the customer to ask more questions. In learning about the choose-what-you-pay suggested item price, the individual is invited to become less of a customer and more of a partner or contributor. Whether they pay more or less than the suggest price, they engage in a dialogue and feel heard.  The restaurant chain has received valuable feedback while the customer feels appreciated and valued.

Giving back:

Everyone knows the value of helping others. Businesses that recognize their role in changing the world for the better are those that thrive. Clearly the “pay what you want” experiment is a prime example of not just a company giving back, but a company encouraging society to give back as well. It can be tricky to show emotional intelligence on an organizational level, but this is a smart strategic method.

Ideas like Panera’s “The Meal of Shared Responsibility” have the potential to go a long way. Companies who think creatively about engaging consumers and giving back to society are certainly on the right track.

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