ServeNext.org Blog

Same Cafe: A Nonprofit Restaurant?

Posted by laurelgerard on July 6, 2009

            It is common belief that most restaurants are over priced, so how about a restaurant that you can pay what you want? Believe it or not, such a place exists. Same Café is a non-profit restaurant located in Denver, Colorado. It is locally owned by two outstanding individuals, Brad and Libby Birky.

            The Birkys are both people who enjoy good food, so eventually they decided that they wanted to open a restaurant. Brad enrolled in a culinary program at the Metropolitan State College of Denver.  The Birkys then quickly decided that they did not want to start a conventional restaurant, as typical work hours for a restaurant owner are impossibly late and inconvenient. As they had previous experience working in soup kitchens and participating in various charities, they decided they wanted to cater to the homeless population. They wished to provide a place for those in need to get good quality food. “At times we would have to look through heads of lettuce to pick out the rotten parts,” Libby explained, recounting her experience working in a soup kitchen. Thus the idea of Same Café was developed, a place where anyone is entitled to healthy food. 

            The restaurant operates on a “pay-what-you-want model.” This means that there are no set prices on the menu. Instead, customers order what they wish and pay afterwards, an amount that the consumer gets to pick. For those who cannot pay, the Birkys hope that those individuals will devote at least one hour to working in the restaurant.

            Not only does this system feed the hungry, but the food is largely organic as well. In a discussion with Libby she explained, “We mostly try to buy locally. At times our lettuce could have gone from the ground to being served in an hour.” Also, Same usually accumulates less than a trash bag of waste every day. This is because most patrons are aware that they can come for seconds, so they are less likely to over-order. Brad buys fresh ingredients every two days, so products rarely go bad. This means that this restaurant is both an efficient way of feeding the hungry and is environmentally friendly.

           Volunteerism is the backbone of this business. Not only is it encouraged to those who cannot pay, but the restaurant is run largely by volunteers. Some are friends and family of Brad and Libby, but others are just interested and intrigued by the good cause. The restaurant has attracted so much attention that the volunteer schedule is filled for months. When speaking with Libby she stressed the importance of volunteerism. “Volunteering strengthens the community in which you live in, it is necessary in ensuring that one’s community will continue to be healthy and thrive.” She also hopes encourage people to seek out other non-profit restaurants throughout the country and donate a little time to the cause. 

For more information on Same Cafe and how to get involved visit their website.

The Team

 

Inside the cafe

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