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This Restaurant Doesn’t Charge Customers; How Does It Stay Open?

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You’ve probably heard that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but try telling that to the customers of this place! EAT Café is a restaurant in Philadelphia that has a unique business model: pay what you can.

Powered By An Owner That Cares

The EAT Café’s motto is simple: “everyone is welcome, rich or poor, and the bottom line is not profit, but improving humanity and empowering people.”

“The national dialogue used to be that, ‘oh, someone is poor, they should never be able to go out,'” said Mariana Chilton, the owner of EAT Café. “I wanted to break that apart.”

Chilton is also the Director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities at Drexel University.

The Business Model

How does it work? The cafe has a suggested price of $15 for a three-course meal, and if you can pay that, great! If not, it’s no sweat. Simply pay what you can or even pay nothing at all. There’s no real dialogue at the end of a meal, a customer merely writes down how much they intend to pay.

The business model for EAT Café is partially built on the gamble that more generous customers who are easily able to afford a meal might be more charitable when it comes time to pay their bill, paying above and beyond the suggested $15 price. That supports the business and makes it so the people who pay nothing can continue to eat freely, and also helps to pay the staff that work at the cafe.

Helping Philadelphians Get Over Their Food Worries

Donnell Jones-Craven is the General Manager of the café, and he claims that their unique partnerships with companies enable them to get ingredients at a discount price or even donated to help the cause.

Chilton claims that 1 in 4 Philadelphians suffers from food insecurity, and that number jumps to 1 in 3 when it comes to families with children. EAT Café hopes to do just a little bit of good in its community to reverse this serious issue.

What do you think of this special café in Philadelphia? We wish there was one in our neighborhood!

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