A vegan restaurant with a “pay what you can” policy is facing closure after receiving an average of $3 per meal from customers.
For the last two years, Lentil As Anything in Sydney’s trendy inner-city Newtown has prided itself both on serving restaurant quality vegan food while retaining it’s not for profit, community organisation philosophy.
But now it is having to go hand in cap to donors in a bid to stay afloat, as weekly average donations per meal, which have typically been in the $6 range, have recently dropped to less than $3 per customer. During the restaurant’s two years of operation, average donations have never exceeded $10 per head.
“Lentil As Anything is a place for everyone to come in, because we believe everyone has the right to eat at the table,” restaurant manager Rose Piyarach Kiatsiri told the Australian Daily Telegraph.
“But people are taking advantage of what we’re doing here and forget about how we run, and the fact that we need support.”
Despite being “primarily volunteer run,” according to signage within the restaurant, running costs are in the region of $23,000 a week. Consequently, Ms Piyarach Kiatsiri called the current level of donations “really risky.”
“People may not realise what this costs – they think they could pay $5 to make lentils at home. We also pay $2,700 a week in rent, present our meals beautifully, and employ kitchen staff,” she said.
Social nights including poetry circles, musical gigs and meditation classes have failed to turn the company’s fortunes around, prompting the restaurant to launch a #keeplentilsalive campaign in a bid to stay afloat, asking customers who can pay and the wider community to dig deeper and fork out for the running costs.
According to Lentil As Anything’s Facebook page, the average contribution per head last week hit an all-time high – of $7.11.
“There are people who can give, and then people who take,” Ms Piyarach Kiatsiri said. “If people can afford to give, they should – if customers can pay, we need them to donate.”