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WEB EXCLUSIVE Raleigh is one of a few dozen cities in the country with a pay-what-you can cafe. But for A Place at the Table’s model to work, it needs strong support from Raleighites who can afford to buy meals for themselves and who can give a little extra to help cover the costs of meals for those who can’t pay.
“Since COVID, our model has totally flipped,” says Maggie Kane, A Place at the Table’s founder and executive director. Kane says before the pandemic, the cafe served around 60 to 70 meals at no cost each day; now, it’s serving 250 to 300 a day. Before, 70 percent of the cafe’s diners paid for their meals (either the full cost or on a sliding scale); now, 20 percent of diners pay something toward their meals, and 80 percent pay nothing.
“We have just seen a larger amount of folks who are hungry,” says Kane. “We are trying to figure out how to best serve people but keep our mission and good food for all, regardless of means.”
To that end, A Place at the Table has reduced the number of days and hours that it’s open each week, dropping from eight hour days, six days a week to six hour days, five days a week (Wednesday through Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.). The cafe’s dining room hasn’t yet reopened but customers can order food curbside to take away or they can call ahead and have their meals delivered to them as they pull up in their cars. Kane says A Place at the Table is working on implementing an online ordering system where diners can pay what they can, virtually and equitably.
“We’re working as well as we can [with the adjusted operations] but we do need a way to get more paying customers,” Kane says. She adds that she doesn’t think fewer people are paying for meals, but many more people who need help right now are turning to A Place at the Table. Also, fewer people are visiting downtown, as offices and other businesses remain closed.
A Place at the Table recently expanded into the space next door to its original location on Hargett Street and rolled out a new to go menu.
“The food is good, there’s enough to go around and there are easy ways to order and have your food ready,” Kane says. “Check us out on social media and just come and see us.”
Check out our “Know How to Go” from March 2018 for more information.
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