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Pay-what-you-can restaurant open in Raleigh

A Place At The Table is the only pay-what-you-can cafe in Raleigh, NC and provides food for people regardless of their ability to pay. Photo by/courtesy of Chase Morales. 

A Place At The Table is the only pay-what-you-can cafe in Raleigh, NC and provides food for people regardless of their ability to pay. Photo by/courtesy of Chase Morales. 

New Raleigh restaurant A Place at the Table is three weeks old, and its menu has suggested prices – making it the only pay-what-you-can cafe in Raleigh.

If the Raleigh non-profit is to succeed, volunteers and donations are essential.

“Our mission is to provide community and healthy food for all, regardless of need,” said Maggie Kane, the executive director of A Place at the Table. 

She said the 80/20 model explains how the restaurant is able to stay open without losing money. 

“Eighty percent of people pay the suggested donation or more, and 20 percent of people volunteer or pay a little less for their meal,” Kane said.

The restaurant offers a breakfast and lunch menu, where each dish is chef-prepared and made in house.

“Everything on the menu is a suggested price. Some people pay more, some people pay less and some people volunteer for their meal,” Kane said.

She said the menu includes healthy options because part of the restaurant’s mission is for all people to have the ability to eat healthy regardless of what they can afford.

A Place at the Table is a one of 60 operational pay-what-you-can cafes joining the efforts of the organization One World Everybody Eats. 

“Each (cafe) is committed to serving healthy, seasonal meals to ‘those who have’ as well as ‘those who have little,’ and by example, are changing the perspective on hunger," said a One World Everybody Eats press release.

Another one of these non-profit cafes is F.A.R.M. Cafe in Boone. 

Renee Boughman, the executive chef of F.A.R.M. Cafe, said the restaurant has been open since May 2012 and has thrived off of community through local farm contributions, customers and volunteers.

“(We) are inviting everyone in the community to participate by coming and having a meal and enjoying the company of each other,” Boughman said.

Boughman said pay-what-you-can cafes are different than soup kitchens and shelters because the food is fresh and the community is richer.

“The homeless person that’s sitting down beside the lawyer, that’s sitting down beside the college student — they don’t know each other's business unless they want to share it, which oftentimes they do,” Boughman said.

She said money is the biggest challenge of starting a pay-what-you-can cafe like A Place at the Table.

“If you don’t have the funding you’re not going to stay open,” she said.

Boughman said gaining support of surrounding local businesses is another major challenge. 

“The other businesses around you fear that you’re gonna have this element of folks who are not wanted or gonna be bothering their customer base,” she said.

Boughman said that with the restaurant's inclusion comes different kinds of people, of which many businesses are fearful.

“The fact that you’re inviting people into community and giving them stability and a place to be actually creates a much smoother transition,” Boughman said.

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Another major challenge is the volunteer-based labor in the restaurant.

“You’re constantly training people,” Boughman said.

Similar to A Place at the Table, Boughman said F.A.R.M Cafe includes healthy options on their menu. 

“Our mission statement is that we provide nutritious food in a restaurant setting."