Texas Restaurant Operates on Pay-What-You-Can Model, Hits Milestone of 100k Meals Served

“No strings attached,” said Taste Community Restaurant’s owner.

Taste Community Restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas is a nonprofit lunch eatery that operates on a pay-what-you-can policy in order to combat food insecurity in the community. The restaurant just hit a major milestone as it served its 100,000th meal. The team consists mostly of volunteers that work under head Chef Jeff Williams and the restaurant offers a seasonal menu that is swapped out four times per year. 

In early October, the community was preparing for a big weekend — Red River Showdown weekend, which is when the Oklahoma Sooners play the Texas Longhorns. Taste Community Restaurant was also gearing up for a big weekend — when the restaurant closed on Friday, they were less than 10 customers away from the major milestone.

“100,000 meals served,” said Taste founder and executive director Jeff Williams. “It’s been an amazing. An amazing ride. I’m so excited.” Williams opened the restaurant in 2017, and customers are invited to pay what they can, whether that be more than expected or nothing at all. “At first, people thought I was crazy,” said Williams.

He was not sure if the idea would work. But now, he said he is still humbled and surprised by the generosity of his customers. “It’s a lot easier to give than it is to receive,” he said.

The staff consists of 85% volunteers, and the restaurant recently started an apprenticeship program in partnership with the Tarrant County Area Food Bank and the Culinary School of Fort Worth that allows aspiring chefs to get certified while serving at the food bank and getting hands-on work experience at Taste. The program is tuition-free, but they are paid for their work at Taste.

“We want people to realize they have a value to just being them and that we value them as a person,” Williams said. “That they’re able to experience something they may not have been able to. It’s not just about putting calories down. It’s about providing them something that makes them feel special.”

Image source: What’s Up Fort Worth, Taste Project