Maggie Kane isn’t giving up on her dream of opening a restaurant where customers choose the prices.
Kane planned to open A Place at the Table in August in the new Hillsborough Lofts near downtown, but the development project was delayed.
Now Kane continues to search for a place to open the eatery, and she’s raising money in hopes that construction can begin as soon as she finds a suitable space.
A Place at the Table, a nonprofit, has raised about $80,000 through fundraisers and monthly pop-up cafes where customers can try out the pay-what-you-can model in some Raleigh restaurants.
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“We’re entering the phase two of opening a restaurant,” Kane said.
The group will host a breakfast pop-up cafe featuring food from downtown eatery Buku on Saturday, Aug. 27, in the dining room of Relish Cafe & Bar on Creedmoor Road.
Kane is looking for a 1,500- to 2,000-square-foot space in the fast-growing area along Hillsborough Street or downtown. She said that area lends itself to a nontraditional restaurant model.
The menu will feature suggested prices, Kane said, but customers who can’t afford it could help out by sweeping the floors or washing dishes. Customers could also choose to pay more.
She said about 80 percent of patrons would need to pay the suggested prices in order for the model to work.
“We believe in that hand-up, not a hand out,” Kane said.
A Place at the Table is part a national network of about 60 community cafes called One World Everybody Eats Foundation.
Denise Cerreta, the group’s founder, opened the first restaurant in 2003 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The group is affiliated with three pay-what-you-can cafes in North Carolina: F.A.R.M. Cafe in Boone, Rosetta’s Kitchen in Asheville and Vimala’s Curryblossom Café in Chapel Hill.
The community cafe model in which customers pay what they want – or what they’re able – has gained popularity in recent years.
National eatery Panera Bread operates several pay-what-you-can restaurants as part of its nonprofit foundation.
Kane said she was inspired to create a restaurant in her hometown of Raleigh because she wants to bring together people from different socioeconomic backgrounds.
“It’s a great melting pot of people,” she said.
The group’s concept of providing healthy meals to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay, has created a perception problem with landlords, Kane said.
“I think people think of us as a soup kitchen, but we’re not that,” she said. “We are a real restaurant.”
Kane said she’s not letting the slow progress deter her dreams. She spoke with the operators of F.A.R.M. who said it took three years of planning to open the eatery.
“We’ll just take our time,” she said. “And hopefully people will keep sticking with us and keep holding on.”
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi
If you go
A Place at the Table will host a breakfast pop-up featuring food from Buku from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 27, at Relish Cafe & Bar, 5625 Creedmoor Road, Raleigh.