A Melbourne restaurant chain that asks customers to ‘pay as you feel’ is breaking financial and social barriers.
Lentil as Anything is a not-for-profit organisation that currently runs three vegetarian restaurants across Melbourne and one in Sydney, where guests pay what they feel their meal and experience is worth, according to their financial abilities.
With no set prices on the menu, anyone and everyone is welcome to come in and enjoy a meal and pay as little or as much as they wish into the contribution boxes. These contribution boxes are used to keep the restaurants running, and are Lentil As Anything’s sole source of income.
At the heart of Lentil as Anything is its unique ‘pay as you feel’ model, which aims to provide a positive and healthy dining experience for everyone, regardless of their bank balance.
The restaurant, which is founded on the motto “everyone deserves a place at the table”, creates an inclusive environment where the homeless, the wealthy and people from all walks of life mingle daily.
Lentil as Anything’s operations manager Katrina Webb said the restaurant is a place for everybody.
“The philosophy of Lentil as Anything is that it’s a place for everybody, it’s a place of inclusion and everybody’s welcome to have a seat at the table. We have a pay as you feel model so that we don’t exclude anyone who may not be able to afford to go out for a meal,” she said.
“We have these amazing big tables that encourage people from different walks of life to sit side by side and some of the best moments at Lentil are when you have a professional person sitting next to a homeless person who is sitting next to a family and they sit together, they share their stories and they sometimes help each other.”
Lentil as Anything also hosts art exhibitions, performances, workshops, classes and demonstrations.
“It’s more than just food, there’s often music, poetry or open mic nights and we offer different community sessions such as craft sessions,” said Ms Webb.
Ms Webb said most of the people working at Lentil as Anything are volunteers who are passionate about food, culture and community.
“We get loads of people from all different ages and backgrounds coming in to volunteer with us,” she said.
The underemployed, the homeless, refugees and the disenfranchised are all given an equal opportunity to volunteer and gain skills at Lentil as Anything.
“We work with everyone but we’re a little bit more open to providing opportunities for people who have come from a disadvantaged background or perhaps are seeking asylum in Australia,” said Ms Webb.
“We’re breaking down barriers about our refugee community by saying you can come, be part of us and even if you don’t have workers rights you can volunteer, we can help give you some skills and training, we can kind of give you that little leg up in society that you might need.”
“We can actually make the world a better place through food and community not just through fixed prices and profits.”
Ms Webb believes that the world would be a better place if there were a Lentil as Anything in every town.
Lentil as Anything is a dining philosophy based on valuing people over money and eliminating social barriers.