At the end of November, a new restaurant will be joining Raleigh’s community, but not in its original Hillsborough Street location. The restaurant, A Place at the Table, is a pay it forward cafe, which will allow guests to pay for their meal just like at other restaurants, or volunteer for their meal.
The message the restaurant emphasizes is that they are here to “provide community and healthy food for all regardless of means.”
Maggie Kane, the executive director and NC State alumna, decided that Raleigh needed a pay it forward restaurant after visiting The F.A.R.M. Cafe in Boone, North Carolina.
“After graduating from college, I started working at a nonprofit with people experiencing homelessness and got to learn from them and hear their stories,” Kane said. “I would eat in soup kitchens, go to food banks and be with them. I realized while at a soup kitchen you have no dignity when dining. I just kept thinking that this could not be the only way."
Kane then put together a vision team and got other people involved, which is when, according to Kane, Hillsborough Street reached out and said “we want you in our space, we would love for you to be here.”
The team said yes to the offer, but after almost three years, the area where they were supposed to be located was still under construction.
“We didn’t pull away because we didn’t want to be there, it just never happened,” Kane said. “The building [which would have been next to Target] was never built and there is still a crane there.”
According to Kane, the team is excited for their new space in downtown, despite the location setback.
“We are going to be on 300 W. Hargett St.,” Kane said. “The goal is to open Nov. 28, which is Giving Tuesday, it is the giving holiday of the year. The goal is around Thanksgiving, but who knows. It will be this year though.”
“I think a pay it forward cafe would be a great addition to Raleigh,” said Simone Tucker, a second-year studying foreign languages and literature and international studies. “Personally, I love the idea and think it would really bring about a sense of community. On the weeks I can afford to pay it forward, I'll feel good knowing I've helped someone, and on the weeks I can't afford to pay it forward, I'll be grateful to someone who did.”
Tucker also believes that the restaurant will be beneficial to college students whose budgets fluctuate from week to week.
A Place at the Table expects a diverse clientele from the Raleigh area ranging from those who work in the city to homeless individuals to students from the area’s many colleges. The diversity of the guests will be necessary for their business to be a success, Kane says.
The cafe operates on an 80-20 model, meaning that 80 percent of guests need to be paying the suggested price or more, while the other 20 percent pay less than the suggested price or volunteer instead.
A Place at the Table also plans to help support the surrounding community by buying local produce through avenues such as Farmer Foodshare and Raleigh City Farm.
Using local produce is important to Kane, because she says the goal of the restaurant is to provide people with a place to dine in dignity and have access to healthy meals as well.
“We will have a good, healthy, widespread menu, so there will be a lot of great options for breakfast and lunch,” said Kane.