These New Restaurants Will Charge You Based on What You Can Afford to Pay

This fresh concept might make that kale Caesar taste even better.

All too often, an inexpensive lunch means a fast-food grease fest. But one restaurant chain is aiming to change that, by serving its ambitious, chef-created, locally sourced fast-casual meals at pay-what-you-can prices.

Everytable opens its first location this weekend in the University Park area of South L.A., with a chef, Craig Hopson, who has New York City's famed Le Cirque on his pedigree. Founded by Sam Polk and David Foster (Polk is formerly of Groceryships), Everytable's concept is to price foods higher in more upscale areas, so it can afford to keep prices down in low-income neighborhoods. Hopson's dishes will use locally sourced ingredients, and will be cooked from scratch every day. An average salad or main-course bowl (like a kale caesar salad or a Jamaican jerk chicken bowl) at the University Park location will run you around $5 or under, and kids' meals will cost roughly $3 or less.

Anything leftover at the end of the day will be sent to local shelters.

What keeps this concept sustainable—fresh, healthy chef-prepared meals aren't cheap to prepare—is the sliding-scale model. The income median of each community will help determine the prices. A second location, opening soon in downtown L.A., will serve the same dishes but at prices that run closer to $8.

“We don’t love the word subsidize because each store is designed to be individually profitable,” Sam Polk, co-founder and chief executive of Everytable, told the New York Times. “I think it’s similar to Toms, where you buy a pair of shoes knowing that someone else in some needy part of the world is going to get a similar pair of shoes for nothing,” Polk added.

Although Everytable is offering a fresh spin on the concept, the idea is not entirely new in restaurants. Jon Bon Jovi’s Soul Kitchen, for example,  is a community-based restaurant chain in New Jersey where people can pay for meals based on donation, or volunteer time in exchange to feed their family if they cannot afford to pay.

Will the concept pick up more steam, and eventually go national? Only time will tell.

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