Virginia Restaurant Tried "Pay What You Want" Model 50 Years Ago

Not so fast, Brooklyn, you aren’t the first place for a non-chain to try the “Pay what you want” outside Panera. Turns out a downright mom and pop restaurant in Virginia had you beat by 50 years. Take that, hipsters!

With Brooklyn restaurant Santorini Grill jumping on the experimental food service “pay whatcha want” bandwagon recently undertaken by nationwide chain Panera, it’s fun to look back on the past and see what kind of places might’ve influenced today’s foodie ideas.

An article in The News Virginian, sent it by Consumerist tipster Rev. Keith, reminisces about a diner run over 50 years ago with the same “pay what you think the food and service is worth” idea becoming de rigueur today.

Hamburger Frank’s in Waynesboro, Va. is fondly remembered in the story for its excellent food and the friendly husband and wife team who ran it.

The News Virginian reported the opening of Hamburger Frank’s in April 1954. Two months later, Manager Homer Gordon eliminated prices and put the quality of his burgers, chili and footlong hot dogs to the test. He and wife Floretta “Patty” Gordon split shifts to manage the diner for about a decade.

“Pay what it is worth to you!” appeared on menus. Drivers were soon honking for curbside service and trying to understand the explanations of servers, who wrote down orders, then accepted payments and asked what change to return.

While the restaurant doesn’t exist today, locals in the area have fond memories of its food, service and owners. The children of the original husband and wife team who ran Hamburger Frank’s were excited to learn that other venues were going to attempt the same payment strategy.

So even though you’re cool, you restaurants doing the same thing, you weren’t the first. Take a lesson from Hamburger Frank’s and we think this will all work out just swell.

Previously: Brooklyn Restaurant To Try Pay What You Want Model

Frank’s Had Flair [The News Virginian]