My notes as I explore various business and financial topics

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pay What You Want Restaurants

I drove down a main street in my town and tried to imagine just how much food there was on this stretch of road. How many restaurants and fast food eateries lined the streets? How much food were stored in pantries and freezers of all those restaurants? We have such so much food in the U.S., it's hard to imagine that people are still going hungry.

Another example: my friend's college provides a breakfast buffet for weekend classes. After the students and faculty ate, all the remaining food was thrown out. Unfortunately, it had to be. Health regulations does not allow the food to be redistributed. A quote that I heard once (can't recall where)that perfectly describes this situation is "we don't have a food availability problem in America; we have a food distribution problem."

For most of us, food is readily available in our pantries or at the nearest shop, market or restaurant. Think a moment. When was the last time that you went hungry for more than a day? And have you ever been in a situation where you didn't know how you when or how you were going to eat next?

One movement to overcome this problem is the concept of the "pay what you want" cafes. Shops such as the SAME (So All May Eat) Cafe on Colfax Ave, Denver, CO. and the One World Cafe in Salt Lake City, UT have a donation box instead of a cash register. Patrons are asked to pay what they felt their meal was worth. The appeal is for those who are capable to leave just a little bit more so that meals will always be available to the less fortunate in society.

The idea has spread and there are now 13 eateries operating on the "pay what you want" philosophy. One big corporate participant is Panera Bread, with three locations.

Restaurant managers try to encourage contributions. Those without funds are encouraged to volunteer an hour or so for their meals. This also helps cut down on people who try to take advantage of the system. Those truly needy can leave with a full stomach and a feeling of having earned their meal. said Giovanni Bouderbala, head chef and director of the One World Salt Lake City cafe.

source: New York Times - Pay What You Want has Patrons Perplexed

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