Just Cookin' in Dallas, North Carolina (there's more than one, apparently) has taken a novel approach to menu pricing: not having set prices at all.
Owner Dana Parris says she'd been praying all through the slow summer for ways to get through the slow season, when "God told her" to trust him:
"He just came to me and said I don't need to do it, I need to let him do it," Parris said. "The way I could show I was giving God control was to give him control of the cash register."
As a result, Parris now has no set menu pricing: when people come up to the register to pay, she asks them, "What was your meal worth to you?" To Parris's credit, she legitimately is not bothered when people can't afford to pay full price — and in many cases, those same customers will return later when they have a bit more and pay extra for the same meal. Parris says her revenues have tripled since she went on a wing and a literal prayer.
People who are expecting me to mock this are going to be disappointed. While this obviously isn't an approach that could work for most restaurants, American society really needs places like this. I may be incredibly uncomfortable with the overt religiosity in statements from the restaurant and especially from its customers (because I am incredibly uncomfortable with any form of overt religiosity), but what Just Cookin' is doing has the potential to help desperately needy Americans when our society refuses to.* That's something worth lauding.
* It's also worth noting that this isn't the US's first pay-what-you-wish restaurant by any stretch. I may loathe Panera for their overpriced, sub-McDonald's-quality food, but they've been operating places like this for a while now. Granted, Panera's corporate-level profits can keep those places going at a loss where local places could not.
Image via RTimages/Shutterstock.