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16° & CLOUDY ON TUESDAY 18 DECEMBER IN MELBOURNE
By Shannon Connellan
February 10, 2015
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Lentil as Anything Is in Trouble Because People Are Cheap Jerks

Pay up, cheapskates.
By Shannon Connellan
February 10, 2015
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If you're going to sit yourself down in someone's restaurant, eat their specially cooked food from their own personal dishes, drink their juices and leave them to clean up your mess, you'd feel like paying right? You'd think most Australians would, but Melbourne-founded 'pay-what-you-feel' restaurant Lentil as Anything is watching customer by customer happily walk out without paying much (or anything) at all.

Reported by Good Food, the popular chain is losing money — a lot of money. Apparently people aren't as generous as they thought when the not-for-profit organisation first set up the bill honour system — mainly as a means to get much needed, good vegetarian food to people of a lower socioeconomic status. But it looks like people are genuinely stingy bastards and treating the joint as a free feed. LAA is operating at a major loss — GF reports the Abbotsford restaurant lost $4000 in one night, despite serving 1500 people (who'd just returned from Rainbow Serpent festival). This averaged out to about $2.75 a head. Well done, y'jerks.

Lentil as Anything has no prices on their menu. The Melbourne and Sydney restaurants are entirely funded by donations with the kind and probably naive motto "everyone deserves a place at the table". GF reports roughly one million meals are served by LAA across the four restaurants each year, with running costs getting up to $24,000 per venue per week. To help this even out, you're advised to leave around $12 to cover the meal and the general running of the joint. But if you don't pay them properly, they pay for your dinner themselves. They pay for you to eat their deliciously healthy food in their dining room from their plates. If you can't pay, you're encouraged volunteer in the kitchen or come back later and pay the difference.

Amazingly, Lentil as Anything intend to keep running their business with their philosophy intact. So, if you're the giant stingebucket robbing this goodhearted chain of their livelihood, or you've seen 'friends' leave a couple of bucks for a giant LAA meal, check yourself. Don't be a tightass and leave Lentil as Anything what they're due.

Via Good Food.

Published on February 10, 2015 by Shannon Connellan

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  • Reader comments...

    marilyn - January 30, 2017

    Because people are so stingy maybe you should have a set price of ten dollars if you wish to pay more ok. It is well worth the money.I wish that you would come to my suburb in Brisbane. A very pretty seaside town.

    Sandra - August 26, 2016

    Many vegans are cheap I hate to say. Many of them are fine with mooching off of others. Maybe it's the socialist attitudes, I don't know. I'd like us to be better.

    me - December 25, 2015

    So a bunch of dimwit hippies with no business sense are shocked to find out that they aren't making any money with their stupid idea? Big shockeroo!

    Leanne Tan - December 22, 2015

    Naughty people of the world, stop being silly. Especially when you are ruining a good thing for everyone else.

    Janine - December 22, 2015

    I've eaten at LAA (Abbotsford & Footscray) a few times and haven't paid less than $20 each time....and I still think I underpaid! It's a great place, I'd highly recommend it!

    Cambo - December 21, 2015

    I've not been to the Newtown location because I genuinely didn't know what to pay. A suggested ave price is what I've wanted to know, now I do I'll give it a whirl and put at least $12 in the kitty, $18 or $20 if it's good.

    jess - February 18, 2015

    I've eaten at the Sydney restaurant and the food is terrible. I think the concept is a great idea but at the end of the day you can't really expect to have completely inexperienced people in the kitchen, serving almost inedible food and get paid well for it. I paid $20 and wouldn't go back and wouldn't recommend anyone else go there. I don't think people are cheapskates, I have more faith in humanity but I do think questions need to be raised about whether lentil is being run with the right people in the kitchen.

    Jean-Pierre Levac - February 14, 2015

    They should explore crowdfunding, that could keep them afloat as they revise their modus operandi and make necessary adjustments. Similar business that work are JBJ Soul Kitchen and Karma Kitchen.

    Scott - February 13, 2015

    Such vitriol. The joint does good things, has been running successfully for years, and these articles are aimed at shaming the faux hippies who rip off people with good intentions. it's trying to call attention to people freeloading, not crying that the business is about to fold.

    Jason - February 11, 2015

    WOW. You invite people to pay what "they feel" and when they do, you whinge about. Maybe they weren't just that impressed with your food and the price they paid was what they genuinely felt it was worth. Either way, if you believe that $12 or $15 or so is what people should be paying, then make it explicitly clear and mandatory that it is. Otherwise you are just deliberately misleading the public when you represent to them that they are "free" to pay what they feel they should - when you clearly don't expect so. In any case, you should be re-examining your silly and misguided view of human nature guiding your business model. Hippiedom doesn't quite work these days. Harsh but true.

    PWAF - February 11, 2015

    Hippies suck. This is a surprise?

    ML - February 11, 2015

    i volunteer at the abottsford convent and completely agree with Greg! for an organisation to stay afloat and continue to subsidize feeding actual poor people who cannot afford to eat otherwise (these people do exist in melbourne you know), the faux poor ("i spent all my money on a music festival" whingers) who are a large majority of patrons need to pay a fair price for their food and drinks. there's eftpos facilities available as well, no cash is no excuse. if you want to take your $12 and go pay at a restaurant then fine, we don't need types like you scabbing off people who actually need this organisation to exist.

    Joede - February 11, 2015

    Start charging Lentil As. You have tested the waters of ideology and discovered too many humans are more shallow than hoped.

    Greg - February 10, 2015

    'Stohp scabbing Dohm its becoming a joke, Come on man you know I'm broke, but I've got $350 for a gram of coke" -Bondi Hipsters Relevant to the majority of the Melbourne doof crowd

    Logan - February 10, 2015

    Can't say this is really that bad. If Lentil as Anything is supposed to be a charity serving meals to those who can't afford to pay for them (or to pay as much as somewhere else might charge) then a loss of $2.75 per head is pretty amazing, can't imagine many other charities manage to feed as many people for a price like that. On the other hand if they are supposed to be a 'pay what you feel it is WORTH' restaurant, as their website indicates: "At our core are our Lentil as Anything vegetarian restaurants, where guests contribute what they feel their meal and experience is worth" Then I can't say I feel sorry at all, my experience has been an overly crowded restaurant with food that isn't worth anything like $12, for that price I could get much better elsewhere. Again I totally support them if the point is to be a not for profit that provides food at subsidised or free cost to those who can't afford it, but if so they really shouldn't be complaining about such a minor loss.

    nihal bhat - February 10, 2015

    its 1 million meals per YEAR not per week

    Jenna Fox - February 10, 2015

    Using a photo from Lentil as Anything Newtown is pretty deceptive. Your source is talking specifically about the Abbotsford venue and specifically about a temporary situation after a music festival, lasting one night. Every lentils restaurant occasionally makes a loss. So does any business! This clickbait article is getting a lot of attention on facebook and I'm worried it could scare some poor people out of coming and eating free or very cheap when they're not in a position to contribute more. Please, readers, if you aren't in a place where you can contribute much or anything, be it your money, time, art, or music, do not worry. You are more than welcome at Lentil's Newtown. Everyone deserves a place at the table. That is our motto. It includes you - come by and grab a meal.

    Dude - February 10, 2015

    Stingy as! A bit misleading though. They LOST $4000 meaning that the 1500 customers paid $2.75 less than the recommended $12 per meal. If they MADE only $4000 that night then that would equate to $2.75 per head. Super cheeky still.

    Dude Guy - February 10, 2015

    Stingy as! A bit misleading tho. They LOST $4000 meaning that each person paid $2.75 less than the recommened $12 for a meal. If they MADE only $4000, then itd be $2.75 a head. Still cheeky though.

    Aron Bury - February 10, 2015

    Really guys... THAT is what you find wrong with the article? Not the fact that people are stingy bastards?

    Shannon Connellan - February 10, 2015

    Fair feedback though, my sentence makes it sound like it's all four running for $24,000. I'll amend. Thanks for the heads up.

    L-Lo - February 10, 2015

    Mo Sketch, you're an idiot if you think a restaurant can serve meals at 2.4c a head

    Shannon Connellan - February 10, 2015

    That's around $24,000 per venue though, so over four venues it's getting up to $96,000 to run, at a minimum.

    Mo Sketch - February 10, 2015

    Ok, so - $24,000 to serve 1 million meals a week, equals 2.4c a head. Compared to $2.75 average revenue per customer (which is quoted as a poor result, not average). $2.75m per week, revenue. This sounds like a cry for attention, to me.

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