Pay what you can, earn much more

As you walk through the doors of A Place at the Table, it looks like any other café: Warm light, upbeat music, healthy sandwiches and pastries on the menu and community members chatting and eating together.

You might not notice anything different until you get to the cash register, where you’re presented with three options: pay the suggested amount for your meal, pay what you can or volunteer for your meal. 

A Place at the Table is a pay-what-you-can cafe and has been serving fresh and healthy food to the Raleigh community for the past five and half years. Even through the COVID-19 pandemic that caused many restaurants to shut their doors, A Place at the Table has seen incredible success and community support. 

Since 2020, they’ve served 35,238 meals, received over $62,000 in meals donated and 4,681 “pay it forwards” (when a customer buys a $10 voucher for someone else’s meal). 

A look inside A Place at the Table

Origins of pay-what-you-can

The pay-what-you-can model originated with a cafe in Salt Lake City run by Denise Cerreta in 2003. She went on to found One World Everybody Eats to help others start their own models and share best practices. As the organization grew, they developed seven core principles to ensure the long-term success of pay-what-you-can cafes. The principles, which include choice, the opportunity to volunteer and good food, were later endorsed by researchers for adequately addressing the tenets of food insecurity. 

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