New: at the Big Big Table nonprofit cafe, pay what you want

Photo courtesy of Big Big Table

Advertise any efforts to help disadvantaged people on social media and you can bet your last Bitcoin .000000001 the self-proclaimed sympathy police will be to shoot first, ask questions later.

That’s exactly what happened when news of a new pay-per-view restaurant on Buffalo’s West Side hit Facebook. “How will this place make a profit?” ” asked armchair contractors, obviously not realizing that the restaurant is not for profit.

Yes, the non-profit Big Big Table is based on a viable concept and similar restaurants across the country have had success with it. It works like this: you get a meal and pay whatever you want, whether it’s 20 cents or 20 dollars, and if you can’t pay, you can volunteer to “work on your bill.” The cafe also accepts food donations as payment.


Photo courtesy of Big Big Table

While restaurant receipts play a role in covering costs, Big Big Table is not completely dependent on it for its most important expenses: labor and ingredients. In addition to getting free labor from “paying customers,” the restaurant has mostly volunteer staff. Meanwhile, many products purchased for the restaurant’s kitchen come from donations.

According to Stephanie Smith, chair of the Big Big Table board, the coffee has received a lot of ingredients from local farmers looking to get rid of distressed produce that they are unable to sell. It’s an arrangement that allows farmers to reverse a charitable donation, reduce food waste, and feed those who need it most.

“If I’m a farmer and have a bunch of bruised pumpkins, I could bring home some for my family, friends and neighbors, but I will feel a lot better knowing that they will be used for feed the people, ”Smith said. “They’re probably not going to generate any income on this product anyway. They may feel good that there is less food waste and that their work continues to feed people.


Photo courtesy of Big Big Table

To be fair to the Facebook comment squad, it’s not a simple concept. There are a lot of moving parts and a lot of generosity. It wouldn’t work in all neighborhoods either. With a large underprivileged population and a liberal culture (judging by the number of India Walton road signs), the West Side is the perfect place for a la carte coffee.

“(We have to) be very accessible to those who need our food the most,” Smith said. “But also close to those who are really enthusiastic about our model; the people who get it. These people come in and are happy to pay $ 20 for their meal. They say, ‘Hey, I’m going to cover my meal and the meals for the next two people.’ “

Photo courtesy of Big Big Table

It’s easy to look at that and be cynical. There is no free lunch, they say. But like cynicism, generosity is part of human nature, and at Big Big Table, generosity goes both ways. People willing to pay a little more can help other customers. People who can’t pay are often willing to do the dishes or sweep the floor in exchange for a hot meal.

“When they receive something, people feel a lot more dignity when there is a way to give something back,” Smith said. “Everyone feels good when they can give back. “

If you are interested in giving back, Big Big Table is currently looking for volunteers and some promotions. If you can’t volunteer your time, consider sharing this article. Or you can just go out there and drop $ 20 on lunch.

Opening Hours: Days of the week 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Large Large Table

272 Hudson St. Buffalo, NY 14201 • $$



Cafe / Cafe, Counter Service / Quick Casual

Our mission is to provide a dignified response to hunger in our community, by providing Buffalo and Western New York with accessible, affordable, nutritious and delicious products …

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Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement