questionsif you went to a pay what you like restaurant…


This could be good and bad.. There are a lot of factors to consider though...

1) Location: Is it in an upscale area? white-collar? other?
2) Clients: Business? Formal? Casual?
3) Type: Formal Restaurant, Buffet, Mom&Pop Diner, other?
3) How expensive is the food? (your cost)
4) If there are waiters/waitresses, their tips would be 12-15% (on average) of what someone felt the food was worth. Which may or may not be a good thing for them.

The concept is fun, but I think a lot of people would be confused as to what is something's worth... Unless it was a very formal/business/luxury restaurant, then you would be fine.. but you better have a good team of chefs


Didn't Michael Jordan open a restaurant like this? But what am I talking about, I can't afford to even look at a photo of him.

How much would I pay? That would depend on a lot of things. The price could, would change every time I'd walk in. Food taste, choice, presentation, service, atmosphere, etc.

Yes many people could/would take advantage of your services. But a lot don't want to take advantage of things like that. Although it's sort of like a "make an offer" sign on a car or thing at a garage sale. Some hate to make choices. Customers don't want to insult or pay too much so they pass altogether. Which could be a downfall for you.


It would depend on the food, service, ambiance, my mood, the weather and a host of other things.

I don't think such a restaurant would work very well, unless it was done purely as a hobby.


@baqui63: the ones that have already tried it seem to be successful.

granted, the ones that seem to work the best are either small town mom&pop places, or places that serve the public good by using profits to support a charitable cause.



It's hard for me to fully explain what I'd like to do without sounding like a crazy dreamer, but I'll try.

My idea is for a Vegan/Vegetarian Cafe. In a small city 200,000 with Several large suburbs. I would ideally like to get a storefront Downtown or near downtown. There are a lot of really great small CO-OP Grocery stores in the area so I'd like to work with them and Farmer's Markets.

I'd also like to donate a certian amount of the income/profit (Though I'm thinking Non-profit if that's even doable.) To charities Food Banks, Homeless Shelters that kind of thing. So in essence your meal helps pay for another person to eat.

I feel like I can attract a client base that's willing to pay more to help out others.


As far as tips go my thought was to do away with the need for that. Pay the wait staff kitchen staff management (Me) all equally with what's left based on hours worked. So if we made 300 bucks in a day it would be divided by all the hours worked and that would be the wage


@kamikazeken: That story is awesome! Thanks for finding it.


Interesting concept. You would NOT want me as a customer. ;-) Don't go to restaurants very often; when I do, I'm always shocked at (what I consider) the high prices. Have been told I need to get out more often to keep up w/the times. Used to go to Too-Jays for their chicken liver dinner. In the past few years it's increased $5 in price. Found that I could buy chicken livers for around $4 that would make more than 2 servings of their meal. I understand that I have to prepare it, etc. But, bottom line, it's just not worth it to me.

Another thought: Restaurants are a very difficult business to enter. Excellent one's go under. Often. Even those with a great following & excellent well-known chefs. Especially hard in this economy.

All that said: If you do this, I wish you great success! :-D Such an interesting idea!


P.S. I already have 3 awesome names to chose from. All from children's Books.

1) Giving Tree
2) Where the Wild things Eat
3) The Very Hungry Caterpiller

Let the Lawsuits begin.


@gideonfrost: How about:

Vegetarian Humanitarian
Helping Hippies


I would pay whatever I felt was fair for the meal. But I require meat.


@gmwhit: Pretty much +1 to everything you said.

Plus I like meat. Nice, tasty juicy meat.


Making a few more mewling sounds. I, too, want MEAT. Not overly fond of veggies - they're okay as a side dish. As said before, I don't go to restaurants a lot, when I do, I am not thinking of feeding or helping to feed others. Selfish? Perhaps. I do donate many of items to various charities. Willingly & w/o a sense of necessity. On my own terms. Eating out is a rare pleasure for me. I do not want to feel like I 'should' pay more for a meal because it's a worthy cause. No guilt eating for me.

I know this sounds lame at this point, but I DO wish you the very best success in your endeavors. I know that your target consumers are out there. :-D So, it's probably best to ignore carnivores such as myself.


I didn't mention Vegan in the question for a reason. I knew that would become the topic.

And I wouldn't be trying to guilt anyone in to anything. I just love the idea of being able to give something back to charity. That idea didn't even come to me until after I had already considered pay what you can.


@gideonfrost: Although not vegan/vegetarian myself I do know that there is very tasty food that can be made with that mindset. I also feel like people who have chosen that lifestyle are usually used to paying more because they know it costs more to make. I think it would make a good clientele to use this model because you would get less of the "cheap" people who want to take advantage. Also, I love the idea of local/farmer's markets being the source of the food. I would probably come eat there from that detail alone. Just make sure to be willing (and hire staff who are willing) to explain the concept a million times a day.


My friend and I went to one of these not knowing what we were getting into and we hated it. On top of providing a personnel evaluation (tipping) we also had to undertake the responsibility of determining a fair price for our meal without any of the contributing information about costs. The simple answer is to pay the same price I'd pay for the same meal at another restaurant. But that nagging worry as to whether I under or over paid would send me to the other restaurant with the same meal but the price actually printed on the menu.


@gideonfrost: Your plan sounds great. I don't know if it's workable, but it sounds great. Wish you were located here, one of our homeless shelters is starting up a culinary training program, so you could even work with them to have staff specially trained and then advertise that partnership as part of your business plan. Our border city has lost a huge number of low-end manufacturing jobs to Mexico due to NAFTA. Most were in the garment industry, so we have a large workforce of unskilled women workers, most of them single heads of households, that we are struggling to re-train and place into gainful employ. For a while we had a restaurant which served as a culinary training program for them, each 3-4 months they'd take on a new staff and place the trained ones into restaurant jobs locally. It did well as a lot of people went to support the cause, but the agency that ran it didn't do well themselves so it recently closed.


If you do open a restaurant, I would suggest still putting a price on the menu: even a "suggested" price (there are probably better words to use, but I can't think of one at the moment).

That way you are giving your customers lots of information: which how much you would like them to pay (although they would certainly not be bound to pay that much) and an idea of which dishes are more expensive to prepare (and a rough guess of how much, comparatively).


In general I'd rather pay the going price for things I buy and services I use, and donate to my own charities (which I do, quite considerably). I'm not really 'into' paying an up-charge so someone else can donate to charity on my behalf. First of all, it's more efficient, and I can make sure my money goes to charities I believe in directly. There are also of course selfish reasons, such as tax deductions.


@tsfisch: The point of the charitable donation is not to up charge, That money would be taken off the top of our earnings regardless of what we make. whether you pay 50% of what a meal is worth or 500% The idea is never to force people to pay more than they can. If a homeless man comes in and can't pay for his meal hopefully we'll have a few more well off people who will be willing to offset that. My goal is not to be a millionaire (Though I can't say that wouldn't be awesome.) but to help feed people who need it.


Ok, just had a change to read the article linked by @kamikazeken. That Panera isn't what I was envisioning. Now that I better understand what you're talking about, here's my input.

I do go to the local Sri Chinmoy cafe on occasion (eg. the vegetarian duck is quite good), so I don't have to have meat. However, I'd be more likely to go if your place served meat. While I like vegetables, I prefer to have animal protein at most meals. (I'm not looking to argue this point, merely expressing that I'd be less likely to frequent a place that doesn't serve meat.)

For me to comfortably decide how much I want to pay, I'd need to know your costs to provide my meal, both infrastructure and for the food. I'd also want to know what charities you will be funding.

Presuming that I accept your charities, you'd generally get an extra 30-50% from me and always get at least your costs, likely rounded up to the nearest $5.

But I also know a few people who would more than make up for me without caring.