When diners push back from the table after eating dinner at EAT Café, a 30-seat establishment opening next month in a renovated row house in West Philadelphia, they’ll have a few options for settling the check.
A three-course meal at the café will go for around $15*—but that price is just a suggestion. The bill will clarify that patrons are welcome to pay less, more, or nothing at all. Coupled with corporate sponsors and grants, diners who tack some more on to the recommended amount will help shoulder the costs for patrons who pay less.
The pay-what-you-wish spot is making strides towards closing the nutrition gap in an area where healthy options are often hard to come by. The nonprofit effort—a collaboration between the Center for Hunger-Free Communities, the Vetri Community Partnership, and Drexel’s Center for Hospitality and Sports Management—aims to alleviate food insecurity in the city, where nearly a quarter of residents lack reliable access to enough healthy food. Low-income areas are especially vulnerable to food insecurity; the café is situated in a zip code in which 53 percent of residents live below the poverty line.
The amount that a patron chooses to pay will remain private between the diner and the server, in an effort to reduce the chance of someone feeling publically shamed. A sense of dignity and respect is paramount to creating “a warm, welcoming, safe environment for our customers,” says the general manager, Donnell Jones-Craven.