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Mike Terry, Deseret News
Chef Giovanni Bouderbala dishes up a meal for a customer at the One World cafe in Salt Lake City.

SALT LAKE CITY — Panera Bread, a national restaurant and bakery chain with $2.8 billion in annual sales, has become the first major chain to test the fair-pay model pioneered by Salt Lake City's One World Everybody Eats restaurant.

"I think it's so exciting," said Denise Cerreta, One World Everybody Eats' founder. "It's a great idea and a great step in the right direction."

Panera Bread is a company-owned and franchise-operated chain of bakery cafes that operates 1,388 locations in 40 states and in Ontario, Canada. The company has no restaurants in Utah.

Ron Shaich, who recently stepped down as Panera's chief executive officer to lead the nonprofit, community kitchen effort, saw a clip of One World on a newscast about a year ago and wanted to do something like it, Cerreta said. In March, a vice president of Panera Bread contacted Cerreta.

Cerreta said Shaich was searching for a way to give back to communities and was drawn to the Salt Lake nonprofit restaurant that uses a pay-what-you-can model.

After meeting with Cerreta, Shaich wanted to open a Panera Cares Cafe by Wednesday. Cerreta said they opened their doors Sunday — ahead of schedule — in Clayton, Mo. Shaich has plans to open two more cafes in the next six months.

One World Everybody Eats, 41 S. 300 East, was founded in Salt Lake City in 2003 and has helped establish more than six similar community kitchens throughout the country. Cerreta said her goal is to end hunger, end food waste and focus on food and security.

"(Shaich) is such a humanitarian and such a visionary," Cerreta said.

Shaich's goal is to open a Panera Cares store in every city where a Panera Bread is located. "I feel, on a spiritual level, he set something in motion when he said 28 years ago, 'A loaf of bread in every arm.' I feel he's really going to do it," Cerreta said.

e-mail: apierce@desnews.com