A Place at the Table

Most of us are not strangers to the concept of “pay it forward” type scenarios. We’ve all seen the news clips and the online articles about people using their financial privilege to help others who may need it. In June 2017, 167 McDonald’s customers “paid it forward” to the next person in line, continuing the chain from 8:30PM until they closed that evening.
Although we hear about these situations happening sporadically, a new restaurant in Downtown Raleigh is built on this concept, aiming to keep the “pay it forward” serving the Raleigh community day after day. A Place at the Table opened in January as Raleigh’s very first “pay-what-you-can” style restaurant, joining the list of nearly 60-70 restaurants of this kind worldwide.
People who come to A Place at the Table can choose from a variety of ways in which they can contribute to the cause. Pay-what-you-can pricing allows customers to pay what they are able to afford, pay what they would typically pay plus a donation (creating a surplus to pay it forward for others), pay specifically for another person’s meal, or pay by volunteering. The suggested donation ranges from $5-$15, and helps to allow people who are less fortunate in the community to come in and eat healthy food in a normal dining setting.
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A Place at the Table opened in January 2018 at 300 W Hargett St. in Downtown Raleigh.
Executive Director of APATT Maggie Kane expressed her desire to make a lasting impact on the community by creating a place where she could serve the community need in a way that allows those served to feel just like everyone else.
“As a group, we have eaten in soup kitchens as well as fancy dining establishments throughout this process” Maggie explained. “When we ate in the soup kitchens, we felt rushed, and it was a situation that seemed to take away the dignity from the people being served. Although soup kitchens serve a great need, we wanted to create a place in which people in the community could come and have a healthy meal along with a great dining experience without feeling like they have to lose part of their dignity. We want everyone to have a place in which they feel like they belong.”
Growing up in Raleigh, Kane befriended many people who lived in difficult situations without the means to support themselves. These friendships showed Maggie a side of Raleigh that most people don’t necessarily see, and she knew that something had to be done.
If a person is in a situation in which they can afford to take care of themselves and still live a prosperous life, then why not pay it forward to people who are less fortunate? The pay-what-you-can concept allows people to give to others in a way that no other Raleigh establishment has yet explored.
Raleigh is such a diverse community that thrives on different and unique perspectives. The community diversity is one of the biggest contributing factors to Raleigh’s overall success, and it is celebrated at festivals, conventions, and conferences throughout the year. The diverse interactions also create open minds for a lot of Raleigh’s citizens, and contribute to a strong sense of community where everyone feels obligated and happy to help others around them. Due to this, a pay-what-you-can style restaurant is the perfect addition to the Raleigh community.
The pay by volunteering option also brings an entirely different element to the restaurant. It allows citizens in the community who may need something to eat to volunteer their time by helping out in order to earn a meal for themselves.
“We have a few people from the community that we have talked to that couldn’t be more excited about our option to volunteer for a meal,” Kane said. “One guy in particular told me that he wants to volunteer every day. Not only is the option to volunteer great for people who want something to eat, but it gives some of the people without jobs in the community something to do with their downtime – allows them to be a part of something and gives them a sense of belonging.” 
Overall, A Place at the Table is an exciting concept that is going to bring something brand new to the Raleigh community. Each step of the process leading up to its opening has already begun to impact the community. 

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