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Western NY’s First Pay-As-You-Can Community Café

“Everybody eats. Everybody gives. Everybody matters.”

The region’s first pay-as-you can lunchtime restaurant is picking up speed. I first wrote about the initiative back in 2016, although much has changed since that time. Mostly, while the empowering initiative is still the same, the foundation of the lunchtime restaurant has strengthened significantly. The sustainable enterprise is part of a network of 60+ organizations around the world – One World Everybody Eats – utilizing this Community Café model. That means that the local faction is tied into proven systems that will help to maintain the effort that is being referred to as the Big Big Table Community Café.

Academics and the restaurant industry are beginning to cite community cafés as one of the newest advances toward addressing food inequities and trends in food-system optimization.

With the mantra “Everybody eats. Everybody gives. Everybody matters.”, could there be a better time to launch such a “business” model that addresses hunger, focuses on healthy eating habits, builds community, and even promotes workforce development through volunteer opportunities. The “pay-as-you-can pricing” means that anyone can eat, no matter the size of his or her wallet, or whether that person even has a wallet. While some will eat for free, others will have a chance to pay it forward.

This is a model that is long overdue. At the same time, it’s relevance at this moment is simply astounding. Aside from “paying it forward”, the model also relies upon ongoing food sales, volunteer labor, and donations. 

The real kicker here is that the Big Big Table Community Café was on their way to opening their doors at 272 Hudson Street (former home of The Difference Kitchen) when COVID-19 struck. But instead of throwing in the kitchen towel, Founder and Co-Chef, Mandy Bailey decided to ramp up efforts even further. Bailey, who brings more than a decade of culinary experience from working in restaurants, her own catering business, and working in large-scale commercial kitchen production, first learned of the community café model in 2012, and has been on a mission to bring it to Buffalo ever since. When the virus struck, she boldly decided that the community needed this concept more than ever. 


A big part of the Big Big Table Community Café effort has been striking up strong relationships with the local farming community, while working with other restaurants and cafés that share the model. To that end, Bailey has implemented a Board that is helping to guide the mission. Together, the operators are now calling upon the community to finish what they have started.

With COVID-19 pressing down hard, the time has come to issue the battlecry in the form of a 30-day crowdfunding campaign that will allow the operation to purchase the commercial kitchen equipment that they need to open. To that end, board members say that they reached an incredible deal with the owner of the former restaurant to purchase everything they need for $7,500, which is considered very reasonable. Part of those funds have already been raised thanks to a Big Big Online Beer Bash held last month, but the rest is still not “on the table” as of this time. 

Here’s how you can help:

Who: Big Big Table Community Café, Inc.

What: Nonprofit Restaurant “Help Big Big Table Open!” Crowdfunding Campaign

When: 30-Day GiveGab Campaign, May 13 – June 12, 2020

Where: ONLINE @

Why: Help to launch Big Big Table, WNY’s first pay-as-you-can community café

How: Please give what you can and help it go viral for success!

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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