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Panera Puts a Lid on Its Pay-What-You-Want Chili Program

Nearly four months after adding its pay-what-you-want turkey chili meal to menus in 48 Panera Bread stores in the St. Louis area in March as part of the chain’s larger anti-hunger initiative, the franchise suspended the program as of Tuesday night. The official reason was to “achieve goals more effectively to feed more people,” says Kate Antonacci, Panera’s director of societal impact initiatives. The company plans to retool the program and reintroduce it as a seasonal, limited-time offering in early 2014. The cafés served 15,000 of the meals, the Associated Press reported.

One major problem the program faced was demographic: Most of the locations carrying the chili, which was conceived for needy customers, were in middle-class and affluent areas, where the Panera faithful had no problem forking out $5.89 for a meal. Not to mention the fact that summer is hardly ideal for selling hearty, 850-calorie chilis served up in piping hot bread bowls.