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Posted: 2019-01-11 14:17:45

On-the-job training is a standard in the restaurant business. The challenge for Jeff Williams at the Taste Project, a nonprofit restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas, is that 80 percent of those working on a day-to-day basis are volunteers.

Chuck Briant has volunteered 266 hours at the Taste Project in Fort Worth, Texas, a pay-what-you-can restaurant.

The gauntlet is “retraining 30 to 40 percent of the staff every day,” he said. Taste Project is a pay-what-you-can operation. The first meals were served on Thanksgiving Day 2017 with an official opening a few weeks later on Dec. 5. The restaurant serves roughly 85 meals a day, having topped out at 166.

There are three levels of patrons: those in need who pay $5 or $6, the standard rate of between $15 and $16 per meal and those who “pay it forward” and spend between $22 and $25, subsidizing those who can’t pay a market rate, Williams explained.

There’s also competition. The Taste Project is just south of downtown Fort Worth in the hospital district, home to 20 other restaurants. Yes, there is snooping to see what the others charge for a meal. “If we’re not competitive for the people to come in and pay $25, it would be hard to do what we do,” said Williams.

Taste Project is one of between 60 and 70 other restaurants that are part of a network of such food establishments and in many cases succeeding where for-profit restaurants have failed at the concept. The One World Everybody Eats network is a loose amalgam of these restaurants, which range from sit-down restaurants with menus, to those open a few days a week with a limited offering, to food trucks.

There are many more such sites not part of the network and data on the sector is scarce. The restaurants tend to be small and not required to file the federal Form 990 with the Internal Revenue Service. A search by of its database found that just 15 food services filed a Form 990 EZ and 12 filed a Form 990 N.

The daily menu at SAME Café in Denver.

The restaurant that started the network, in Salt Lake City in 2003, closed in 2012. One World Everybody Eats network was launched by the founder of that restaurant, Denise Cerreta.

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