Paying It Forward

New kitchen models are changing the way we pay

by Mary Boland

One Bistro in Miamisburg, Ohio, offers several options to pay it forward–you can pay what you can, pay the meal’s suggested price, pay the price plus a little extra, or give your time in service as payment for your meal or another’s.

Pay-it-forward kitchens and restaurants utilize the gift economy concept, which is built on charity. Instead of a bill at the end of their meal, guests are encouraged to pay-it-forward and provide for someone else’s meal. In a way, the gift economy is the church economy; we are taught to give not because we’re expecting something in return, but because it is simply good to give. Here are some examples of pay-it-forward kitchens across the US.

Rosa’s Fresh Pizza—This Philadelphia eatery provides meals for the hungry and homeless, due to a system of paying it forward, one slice at a time. The trend began when one generous customer paid for two slices, took one, and left instructions to pass on the second slice to someone in need. The owner, Mason Wartman, wrote a reminder of the extra slice on a Post-it note, and a tradition was born. Nowadays, Rosa’s Pizza keeps track of the extra slices at the register, but the Post-its remain, with anyone, from customer to pizza slice recipient, posting a note of support and gratitude.

One Bistro—Serving the greater Dayton, Ohio, community is this restaurant and food truck that allows you to pay what you can, pay the meal’s suggested price, pay the price plus a little extra, or give your time in service as payment for your meal or another’s. The mission is reflective of the name: “To provide a place where our neighbors eat and come together as one community.”

Karma Kitchen—A group of volunteers conceived the idea for Karma Kitchen in 2007 in Berkley, California, and now have 20 restaurants worldwide. Each meal comes with a bill of $0.00, and a note encouraging patrons to keep the spirit of giving alive by paying for someone else’s meal. So far, their kitchens have served over 50,000 meals in this gift-giving chain.

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