Pay-what-you-want restaurants


The pay-as-you-feel social experiment allows for diverse members of the community to enjoy a meal without drawing attention to their financial situation or compromising their dignity.

In other words, you can pay whatever you want or can afford into a donation box as you leave.

I heard some critics say that each diner has to ponder how much each dish is worth, that this would surely spoil most people’s dining experience.

I don’t think so. This model is working. Watch the videos below and tell me what you think.

And as for an enjoyable customer experience, no one should have to eat in a restaurant filled with critics.


In Denver, a pay-what-you-can café. A little kindness is being served at a cafe where no one–not even non-paying customers–gets turned away.

The Same Cafe — a Revolutionary Restaurant

The SAME Cafe is a nonprofit community cafe located at 2023 East Colfax Avenue, Denver, Colorado. Brad and Libby Birky invested $30,000 to open the restaurant on October 20, 2006, inspired by their background in community service and a visit to the One World Cafe in Salt Lake City, Utah. The name is an acronym for “So All May Eat”, and their motto is “Making healthy, organic food available to all”. They offer higher quality food in a pay what you can format where the diner puts what they feel their meal was worth in a donation envelope. They also accept an hour of work in exchange for a meal, made possible by Colorado laws which do not require a food handlers certificate for restaurant workers.

On the March 9, 2009 NBC Nightly News broadcast, Brian Williams singled out the SAME Cafe for recognition in the “Make a Difference” segment.

That broadcast inspired Panera Bread CEO Ron Shaich to create a similar restaurant, Panera Cares.

TEDxStLouis – Ron Shaich – Panera Cares Cafe

The co-CEO of Panera Bread, Ron Shaich, explains during a TED Talk from 2010 that he conceived the initiative partly from volunteering in soup kitchens and experiencing the demoralizing atmosphere as well as the sub-par food. He also explains that he felt his corporation had a responsibility to use its resources to better communities around the country.

Panera was inspired by One World Café‘s founding organization.

Other pay-what-you-want restaurants include:

Namaste Comfort Café- Denver

Cafe 180 – Denver
Pay-What-You-Can Restaurants Dish Up Dignity in Denver

Seeds Cafe – Colorado Springs

Rogue Kitchen & Wetbar – Downtown Vancouver Restaurant

Potager Cafe – Arlington, Texas

A Better World Café – Highland Park, N.J.

One World Cafe

In Melbourne, Australia, there’s “Lentil as Anything”, a not-for-profit organisation that relies solely on the generosity of patrons, partners and volunteers.

In Berlin, the Weinerei has been a pay-what-you-want operation for over a decade. Owner, Jürgen Stumpf started a simple shop to sell wine from the family vineyard and wasn’t sure what to charge, so left it to his customers to decide. Quickly finding success as an informal – and trusting – winebar, it later evolved into a restaurant when his neighbour started cooking.

Read more at Honesty pays in Berlin’s bars

Jon Bon Jovi opens “pay what you can” restaurant in New Jersey, helps hungry locals who are livin’ on a prayer”




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