The SAME Cafe is a nonprofit community cafe located at 2023 East Colfax Avenue, Denver, Colorado. Brad and Libby Birky invested $30,000 to open the restaurant on October 20, 2006, inspired by their background in community service and a visit to the One World Cafe in Salt Lake City, Utah. The name is an acronym for "So All May Eat", and their motto is "Making healthy, organic food available to all". They offer higher quality food in a pay what you can format where the diner puts what they feel their meal was worth in a donation box. They also accept a 1/2 hour of volunteer help in exchange for a meal, made possible by Colorado laws which do not require a food handlers certificate for restaurant workers.
They pay about $2,500 a month for rent and approximately $2,500 for the food. Before their expansion in November, 2008 they served 40–50 meals a day with seven tables. Since the expansion they now serve 75–100 meals a day. The average food cost is approximately $3 and the average donation per meal determined by a reporter was $3.66. Over time, the average donation has decreased, but it was offset by an increase in customers. They offer a limited menu which changes daily, simplifying the variety of food they need to purchase and reducing the amount of wasted food. They buy from a variety of sources, including direct from local farmers, warehouse stores such as Costco, higher end grocery stores such as Whole Foods Market and even the Denver Botanic Gardens.
They are open for lunch six days a week and closed on Sunday.
On the March 9, 2009 NBC Nightly News broadcast, Brian Williams singled out the SAME Cafe for recognition in the "Make a Difference" segment. That broadcast inspired Panera Bread CEO Ron Shaich to create in 2010 a chain of six similar restaurants, Panera Cares, all of which closed by 2019.
- Gergen, Chris; Gregg Vanourek (December 3, 2008). "The 'pay as you can' cafe". Washington Times. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
- Maher, Jared Jacang (February 25, 2009). "SAME Cafe: The restaurant where you pay what you can". Denver Westword News. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
- Meadow, James B. (April 18, 2007). "SAME Cafe: So All May Eat; Restaurant serves food to everyone; pay if you can". Rocky Mountain News. Archived from the original on February 19, 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
- Porter, William (October 8, 2008). "SAME making difference". Denver Post. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
- O'Neil, Roger (March 9, 2009). "In Denver, a pay-what-you-can café". NBC News. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
- "Panera Cares". 7 June 2011. msnbc.com. Archived from the original on 5 September 2011. Retrieved 7 June 2011.
- "Panera Bread closes last pay-what-you-can restaurant". Nation's Restaurant News. February 6, 2019.