Families struggling to afford food have been eating for free at a Sydney cafe after it launched a pay-it-forward model they call “meals on board”.
Rise N’ Dine owner Sunil Ranabhat, 35, said he hopes the generous act can inspire other restaurant and cafe owners to do the same.
Customers with a little extra money and the desire to donate a delicious meal to those in need can purchase something off the menu, or simply pay a random amount toward a meal.
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The docket is then placed on a board for hungry locals to choose and cash in.
The shopping centre cafe, at HomeCo Gregory Hills Town Centre, had been open for a little more than four months when it launched the pay-it-forward initiative in November.
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Ranabhat said that, after 15 years in the hospitality industry, business had been slowing down due to cost of living pressures.
But he was inspired by The Nelson Street Pub which offers paid-in-advance meals in Ontario,Canada.
“When I saw that, I thought I might give it a go because it looks lovely and it’s a good initiative for people who are struggling,” he said.
“I just tried it out and it’s working pretty well.”
Rise N’ Dine owner Sunil Ranabhat, 35, has launched a pay-it-forward initiative at his cafe in Sydney’s southwest. Credit: Supplied
The first docket on the board covered the cost of bacon and eggs, an orange juice and a coffee.
“I hope it’s just a start. What a kind-hearted person,” Ranabhat wrote on a social media post introducing the initiative at the time.
The board boomed in the fortnight that followed, but Ranabhat said fewer dockets are now being pinned up for hungry locals.
“Trade has been very slow. As money has been tightening up with the financial situation happening now, with mortgage rates and a high cost of living, customers who used to come five days (a week) now only come two,” he said.
“At the moment we have about 30 dockets available to feed the people who need them.”
The pay-it-forward board inspired by a Canadian pub has been welcomed by the community. Credit: Supplied
Families with children are often among the customers collecting the paid-in-advance meals, many of which are taken to go.
“They don’t want to eat it here, they always want to take it away to their homes,” Ranabhat said.
“I say to them, ‘Look if you feel hungry again, if you don’t have anything, please come back — we’ll always have something there’.”
Ranabhat said he lets the customer choose from the extensive Rise N’ Dine menu with everything from steaks, burgers, pasta and breakfasts.
“If there is a couple of dollars difference, we always let it go and let the people eat what they want to eat,” he said.
Ranabhat hopes businesses in other areas “will try this system as well”.
“Lots of people are struggling, not only in this area, there are lots of areas in the country … it’s good to try this, to give a little bit of relief to the families who don’t have a lot of money to spend,” he said.
“If you think someone is struggling, just tell them that this is available in our cafe. Tell them that they don’t need to feel bad about it — just come in and grab the food.”