Frequently Asked Questions

We pulled together a list of questions that we are asked most frequently. If we haven’t answered your question, please email us at

   1)         What does ‘donate what you can’ pricing mean?

It literally means just what it says - that any customer can donate whatever they can afford or whatever they think their meal is worth. This is also known as ‘pay what you can’ or ‘paying it forward.’ We are converting customers into donors, and their payment is really a donation. Patrons will have more than one way to donate for their nutritious meal at the Open Door Café:

·         You can donate the suggested price for a meal—typically $8.

·         You can donate more than that amount.

·         You can donate less.

·         You can donate with an Open Door Café gift token someone may have given you.

·         You can buy a token, or many, and give them to family, friends, the ‘pay it forward jar’ or random people you pass on the street.

·         You can donate by volunteering one hour with one of HOPE’s volunteer programs, including HOPE Packs.

2)      Why a ‘donate what you can’ restaurant here in Wytheville?

Great question! Over the last six years, 35,716 free meals were served to food insecure individuals through our predecessor project, the Community Food Kitchen. Over 12% of our neighbors are food insecure, and 18% of all children in Wythe County are food insecure. Nearly half of all students in our schools receive a free or reduced cost lunch, and 13% of the population receive SNAP (food stamp benefits). We can do better, and this innovative business model provides access to healthy, locally sourced food, while engaging donors and volunteers alike across a common meal table in a manner that makes a donor out of a customer, and contributes to the long term sustainability of the project. Open Door Café is perhaps the first donate what you can restaurant in Virginia, and one of 60 in the national One World, Everybody Eats network of donate/pay what you can restaurants. Many individuals, including the Wythe-Bland Foundation and the USDA Community Food Program have contributed to the initial start-up and development costs.

3)      Why a suggested price for a meal?

While we are operating the Open Door Café as a non-profit restaurant, we will have certain fixed costs, including food obviously, much of it locally sourced, and only two full-time paid positions—the chef and the manager. We hope that the suggested price will balance out, but time will tell what the ratio of donating to volunteering ends up being. Other donate what you can restaurants that we have researched have roughly a 60-20-20 ratio, with 60% donating the suggested price, 20% donating more, and 20% donating less or volunteering an hour of their time. We will post this ratio for all to see. Our $8 suggested donation is based on what a comparable, chef-prepared meal might cost, using locally sourced food whenever possible, and including your drink and dessert.

4)      What can I expect when I come to Open Door Café for the first time?

You will be welcomed by a greeter, who will explain the process, which really is quite simple. You will be directed to go through a cafeteria line, where a volunteer will ask what size servings you would like, you will make a drink selection, and then you can take your plate to either a long community table, or an individual table. After you finish eating, on your way out through the lobby, you will be asked, “what would you like to donate today?

·         Here is where you have the choice of donating the suggested cash price, donating more or less cash, swiping your credit/debit card for whatever amount you wish, or signing up to volunteer that day or on another day. If you have a meal token, you can pay with it, or if there are any meal tokens available that day in the ‘pay it forward’ jar, you may use that.

·         No one will be turned away at Open Door Café.

5)      If I donate more than the suggested price, where does my donation go?

Any extra contribution will go towards covering the operating cost of the Open Door Café, which means paying for a meal for someone who is unable to donate with conventional cash or credit.

·         We will be closely monitoring the ratio of donating to volunteering customers, and will be posting this ratio for all our donors to see.

6)      Are there other ways the community can support the Open Door Café?

Certainly! We will be selling meal tokens that you can give your friends, colleagues or any random person, or the pay-it-forward jar for $8 each, or 15 for $100.

·         We will also offer a whole day sponsorship, two times each month, where your $500 would cover the meal for everyone on that particular day. You could also bring your employees, family, church or civic members along to help volunteer with the serving on that particular day, in memory of a colleague, in honor of a retiree, whatever—we can be creative together!

7)            How can I express my faith at the Open Door Café?

We believe faith is best expressed in action, so through your presence at ODC either volunteering or donating what you can, you are participating in a tremendous act of generosity! We thank you for this. The faith community has been tremendously instrumental in the launch and sustainability of this service program over the past six years.

·         At each table, we will have a simple meditation, along with some basic information explaining the donate what you can model. Some will choose to say a prayer before their meal, others may not.

8)            Where will you get your food from?

We will use locally-sourced products as much as we are able to. We want to support the local farm economy! And we believe everyone should have access to local, healthy food, so we will strive to make that possible, and to celebrate the producers with pictures of them and their farms on display.

9)            What is the menu?

We will have a menu which rotates each week or two. We may have a ‘meatloaf Monday’ but enhanced by our creative chef. We will be looking to create our ‘signature’ meal, your special comfort food, so please make suggestions! We will also offer vegan, gluten free and vegetarian options.

10)          What does volunteering for a meal look like?

Open Door Café will use volunteers a couple of different ways. Up to the point of the Café opening, the former Community Food Kitchen was managed exclusively by volunteers. We hope that with the addition of the full time chef and manager, that our volunteer support stays as strong as ever.

For those who choose to volunteer an hour of their time in exchange for a meal, we will strive to match your interests and skills to the positions we have available, either in the kitchen, serving cleaning, or with our HOPE Packs project just through the door.

We will have weekly deep cleans of the whole facility. We are licensed by the Health Department, so we will follow their rules and regulations. Volunteers will be required to so as well.

We will use an on-line service, called Sign-Up Genius, for managing all of our volunteers. This is a simple sign up on line process, where you can pick the role and time(s) you are interested in volunteering, and the system sends you a text or email reminder. It also enables us to keep track of volunteer hours, which are important to report to funders.

If you do not have access to a computer or email account, you can download the form, or we can place one in your hands at our office, and we can load the required information. You could then still receive a text reminder, if you have a smart phone. And if not, we could still call you the old fashioned way. We love our volunteers, and had nearly 700 help us last year in both our food kitchen and HOPE Packs programs. We anticipate that number growing even bigger with the Open Door Café!

11)         What do you mean by a ‘community table’?

Part of what we envision will happen at the innovative Open Door Café is that hungry folks may sit a community table and be a part of building a new community. Good food with good folks has a way of bringing people together. Part of what may be missing in our culture today is civic and civil engagement. What better way to restore both while enjoying a good meal, regardless of means, than listening and learning from each other across the community table!