The Restaurant Where You Pay What You Can Afford

The Today Show featured a family restaurant in Maine that is letting their customers order what they can afford. The scallop dinner is normally $18.95, but if you’ve only got $8.00 — they’ll make you an $8.00 version.

Save money, eat smaller portions… this woman might just be a hero.

(Thanks, missdona!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. weakdome says:

    I would be all over this if fried seafood places didn’t serve plates of $17 worth of greasy fries and $1 worth of fried fish.

  2. bradanomics says:

    This is a great idea.

  3. zigziggityzoo says:

    @weakdome: Considering a 5lb bag of potatoes costs $2.50 at my grocery store, $17 worth of greasy fries should be enough to feed a small army.

  4. Coder4Life says:

    this can just turn into a headache..

  5. zentex says:

    adapt, improvise, overcome. oo-rah!

  6. puffyshirt says:

    i don’t see this how this concept can break even…

  7. donopolis says:

    A very wise move on her part…Not only has word of mouth increased her business…she is creating a loyal customer base by catering to their needs.

    Gold star for this business.


  8. Bladefist says:

    Restaurants already are in a very tough business. I don’t know how successful this will be.

  9. Bruiser_Bradley says:

    Am I going to be able to make money by teaching people how to cook at home on the cheap?

  10. Truvill says:


    I’d personally be delighted to pay more for an even bigger serving.

  11. KerwinJobnick says:

    It can break even easily. You are not getting the same portion for $8.00
    that you would for $12.00.

  12. battra92 says:

    I can see giving various options but there has to be a way to track that. It’d be great for me as I’m a cheapskate working on losing weight so I could order good stuff without the “serves 3” portion sizes.

    By the way, I hate to sound like Professor Higgins but when will people of Maine/Cape Cop learn to speak English?

    But use proper English you’re regarded as a freak.
    Why can’t the English,
    Why can’t the English learn to speak?

  13. CRNewsom says:

    I would go to a restaurant that charged less, but had smaller portions, but I’m trying to lose weight. I suppose this doesn’t fit well with the stereotypical American body type, though.

  14. Scoobatz says:

    If restaurants really want to help the consumer, they can start offering more appropriate serving sizes while adjusting the prices accordingly.

    The $18 scallop order in the video appears to contain more fried food than anyone should be eating in one sitting, anyway.

  15. Jabberkaty says:

    Woo hoo! Go Maine!

  16. Burgandy says:

    I would love to see a menu that had the dishes broken down into portions Full size: $x, Half size – $y , 1/3 size – $z

  17. bobfromboston says:

    @battra92: Breaking news: A lot of people in Maine have an accent, just like people in the southeast, in Texas, in New York, in the Midwest, etc.

    Obviously your version of English (well, American English, which is considered an abomination to many on the other side of the pond) is the absolute proper one.

  18. sean98125 says:

    Why is someone with only $8 going to a restaurant? You can feed a family of four at least twice for that.

  19. Aren’t fixed costs (rent, utilities) and labor costs a bigger portion of the costs than the ingredients anyway? I don’t know how successful she’ll be.

    It’s a great idea though.

  20. picardia says:

    ITA that having smaller portion sizes for less is a good idea more restaurants should adopt. I almost never want to eat as much — or pay as much — as restaurants go for. Restaurants could probably actually do very well with this; the “fixed costs” part of the price would stay intact, and they’d probably save more on useless ingredients (the endless potatoes wasted for fries people don’t finish) while gaining more customers.

  21. iMe2 says:

    @battra92: Your view of ignorance is my view of intolerance.

  22. Keeko_ca says:

    You commenters can disapprove of this business strategy all you want, massive respect for this lady. It’s superb to see that people still care about others.

  23. iMe2 says:

    At first I thought this was a great idea, but actually I’m pretty sure this will flop.

    Part of that $18.95 is the cost of what you associate with a nice restaurant – service, land, labor, etc. To provide these services at a discount (and one that you can’t control) is very risky. Not many people will pay the full price, in fact I’d bet almost nobody will anymore.

  24. spindle says:

    By the way, I hate to sound like Professor Higgins but when will people of Maine/Cape Cop learn to speak English?

    @battra92: 1. Where is Cape Cop?
    2. When you stop being a dick.

    I’ve eaten at Dan’s in Biddeford. Decent enough food, and cheap to boot.

    @puffyshirt: the concept breaks even because the portion is changed in scale with the price.

    @weakdome: you sir, obviously have no idea how much scallops cost.

  25. spindle says:

    @iMe2: Dan’s is not a “nice restaurant” so much as a hole in the wall. Think diner, then move one step below.

  26. battra92 says:

    @bobfromboston: Just more annoyed that people from out of state think everyone in Massachusetts throws around their r’s and replaces them with h’s and their w’s with r’s or just omit them entirely after a long e vowel.

    “I seen him” “So don’t I” “wicked Good” “Yeankees Souk”

  27. VA_White says:

    I think that she’s making money because her traffic is increasing. She doesn’t have to average as much per ticket if her volume has gone up enough to compensate.

    It’s a terrific idea. I’d love to be able to pay less for less food since most portions are enough to feed one person for a week. I would eat out more often if I wasn’t carting home 5lbs of leftovers that I know I will just toss in a few days anyhow.

  28. wgrune says:

    Look, if you are in a situation where you need to start ordering half-entrees because you can’t afford the full price one why ware you eating in a restaurant anyway. Instead of spending $8 on $2 worth of food buy some groceries and feed your family at home.

  29. missdona says:

    I think they’ll do fine. If they keep up the traffic, they’ll turn over more tables per night and keep more customers happy at the end of the day. Those customers will tell their friends and yield even more traffic.

    Even if everyone is eating half-sized portions, that’s half the inventory they’ll use and akin to selling everything at “lunch special” type prices.

  30. Scorcho says:

    Awesome idea, this’d be perfect for me, who’s trying to lose weight, and my girlfriend, who ahs a very small appetite. I whsh more resturants would implement this philosophy. It’d mean less fat people and way less wasted food.

  31. spindle says:

    @wgrune: The whole thing started with an elderly woman who wanted to eat out more. I would suggest the possibility that this elderly woman liked to eat out as an activity to justify going out.

  32. nedzeppelin says:

    i’d like $6.37 of fish.
    i wonder how good the guys in the kitchen are at fraction.

  33. Narockstar says:

    @wgrune: She said that she got the idea from an elderly woman. Lay off the poor old woman. She’s probably on a fixed income. Maybe her weekly dinner out is a chance for socialization in the community. Sorry Grandma, you can’t afford to eat in a restaurant. Go home and sit alone where you belong.

  34. jenl1625 says:

    @Pixelantes Anonymous: A lot of those fixed costs (lighting; heating or cooling; running the fridge and freezer; building maintenance; etc.) will be the same whether she has 5 customers or 50. And if business is getting low enough that she’s having trouble trying to cover those fixed costs, she may well be better off getting more people in with less profit on each person, but hopefully enough volume to cover all of her costs.

    She just has to make sure that she isn’t cutting things low enough that people are paying only enough to cover the ingredients, and not enough to contribute towards fixed costs.

  35. Gann says:

    We’ve had a version of this in the south for a long time, it’s called tacos.

    3=large meal

  36. FrankTheTank says:

    @VA_White: “She doesn’t have to average as much per ticket if her volume has gone up enough to compensate.”

    You mean, like McDonald’s.
    Seriously though, I think you guys are missing ALOT about the economics of the food business. Unless she A) Has a pricing plan that is more complicated than it’s worth or B) Her margins are exceedingly high anyway, this is going to have a hard time succeeding.

    It’d be great if she did, but it’s a tougher battle than I think many of you think.

  37. Shadowman615 says:

    @iMe2:I don’t know if nobody will pay full price. If you pay half price, you’ll only get half of the food. Some folks might actually want a whole meal.

  38. ludwigk says:

    This is a very ‘Maine’ thing to do. People are very thrifty up there, and very value-conscious. Eating out in most places in Maine is already cheap, but customers are honest and loyal, which is why could make this work.

    Diner-style restaurants, which are an integral part of the Maine restaurant culture, are a dying breed. In the two years I lived in Portland, I saw several local diners go under, taking their local specialties with them.

  39. jenl1625 says:

    @nedzeppelin: I wouldn’t think the kitchen guys are the ones figuring out how much to put on the plate.

    I would *hope* that if you walk in and say (as in the post) “I’ve only got $8 bucks, I’d like the scallops” that they’d give you some idea what you’ll get for that $8. . . .

  40. mike says:

    This is not a good idea. I’ve you’ve only got $8, don’t buy seafood!

  41. Raziya says:

    Next time we head to Maine I will have to check this out. :)

  42. @battra92: Yeah, you’re kind of an asshole, in case you were wondering.

    I’m from ‘Cape cop’ and I speak perfect, well articulated English. I use the letter ‘r’. I only know about 3 people with the affliction you’ve described, which to non-assholes is known as AN ACCENT.

  43. lilkeith7 says:

    Wow some of the people on here amaze me. Maybe they only want to spend $8? Its not that they have $8 left in their bank account and go out to the restaurant to spend it. Maybe they are budgeting themselves better then you are because they know what they want to spend for a dinner out.

  44. GreenishBlue says:

    We Salt Lakers have One World Cafe, where you pay whatever you like for your meal. Can’t pay anything? Well, volunteer instead! They have quality food, too. The best quiche in the city. Mmmm.. That sounds good today, actually…


  45. Michi430 says:

    @Linus: Clearly you haven’t spent a lot of time in New England. Seafood is downright cheap during the summer months. I can remember buying live lobster for $3.99/lb at the grocery store when I lived there.

    I think this is a great idea. I’ve never been to Dan’s, but I might go just to support this woman. What a great, creative way of dealing with the hand you are dealt. I think she will end up doing better than a lot of restaurants with this plan, not to mention the good will in the community and the free advertising on MSNBC.

  46. chiieddy says:

    @battra92: Battra, in all the years I’ve known you online, I’ve never seen you say one good thing about Massachusetts or anyone who lives here. Why don’t you just leave? We’d be happier without you.

  47. LosersHaveCreditCardDebt says:

    How to Save $400 a Month on Groceries?

    Answer: Eat less food

  48. DwightIsMyCopilot says:

    See, I would love this, because I hate when they charge you $20 for so much food and I can’t eat even 1/3 of it (I get full really quickly). Then most places offer a kids menu but won’t let me choose from it since I’m not a kid. Which I understand, but I’d still like to be able to choose a smaller portion at a smaller cost. It’s ridiculous how big portions are these days. Most meals I end up taking home at LEAST 1/2 and turning into about 3 meals.

  49. missdona says:

    @Shadowman615: My husband would pay full price. He has a appetite to beat the band.

  50. Drowner says:

    @LosersHaveCreditCardDebt: Yea! most of it causes cancer anyway so you’d be helping yourself.

    And I hate to continue the pessimism but could that spot was dripping with pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstrap americana. I could cut the red white and blue with a knife.

  51. LosersHaveCreditCardDebt says:

    A local golf course did same concept last week. Play 18 then come in the shop and pay what you think it was worth. How did it turn out? Well, the usual rate was $45.00 for 18. About 80 percent paid that amount. Nobody paid more than $45.00 and about 10 percent paid ZERO.

  52. battra92 says:

    @chiieddy: Years you’ve known me?

    1.) Make a reference to a musical
    2.) People go nuts
    3.) ???
    4.) Profit!

  53. TheRealAbsurdist says:

    @bobfromboston, @AlisonAshleigh, et al: Just for the record. I’m from California. As we control the media, we get to make the final determination. YOU all have an accent. WE don’t. And our feces smell like warm cinnamon rolls.


  54. Parapraxis says:


    Speak for yourself. You must be from Northern Calfornia, because here in Southern California, our feces smell like roses!

  55. whatdoyoucare says:

    This reminds me of an article I saw in a magazine yesterday about a doctor in Iowa who tried being retired but just didn’t like it. He reopened his practice,but now he doesn’t accept insurance or medicare. However, he has a donaton box on the counter. You pay what you can. I wish there were more docs like him.

  56. brilliant.

  57. Keavy_Rain says:

    It was my understanding that you make money off of drinks/the bar and sell the food at or below cost.

  58. polyeaster says:

    I do this anyway- when I go to my local deli eatery, I ask for half portions of their special and they charge me hlf. The full size portions are actually 5 or 6 servings…

  59. witeowl says:

    @spindle: True. She’s doing a community service by enabling the elderly to do more than sit and wither away in their homes.

    @TheRealAbsurdist: Nice try. The popular accent that controls the media is actually from the middle of the US – around Ohio. Read more about the General American accent here. (As a Californian I was also shocked upon learning this in Uni.)

    @Pixelantes Anonymous: Right, which is why I think she’ll be very successful. Eight diners with shallow pockets trump three empty tables any day.

    This is a good idea and also meets the needs/desires of people who don’t want to see enough food for a week piled in front of them when they eat out. I sincerely hope this starts a trend across the states.

  60. nardo218 says:

    My grandparents would be all over this, since they don’t have a lot of money and restaurant portions are like five times what elderly people eat at a sitting.

  61. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    This is a gimmick. Once the economy picks up, do you think they will offer a la carte pricing.

  62. LosersHaveCreditCardDebt says:

    The don’t seem to know it yet. But this restaurant will be going out of business soon.

  63. zyodei says:

    My last landlord had lived in Tehran for a couple years..He told me a story of how beautiful everyday life was there:

    You would go into a grocery store, and you would have three bins of, say, rice. One would be 1 Rial a kg, one would be 2 rials a kg, one would be 3. Same rice. The deal was, if you could afford it, you would pay the higher subsidize those who were down on their luck, who would pay the lower amount. Brilliant! Wonder if it would work in the U.S.?

  64. Lambasted says:

    @battra92: Wow, why such hostility towards Maine accents? Every country has accent and dialect differences within. Surely you’ve heard a Brit with a Cockney accent speak. It’s rough. And you can’t get much more “English” than the English. Thank god for subtitles on the BBC as I pretty much need a translator to figure out what they are saying. But whatever, who cares. I think there is something to be said for regional differences and nuances.

    Then again, if anyone wants to launch a crusade to eliminate the oh so charming Brooklyn/Queens accent, I wouldn’t protest. :-)

  65. Burgandy says:

    @Lambasted: Then again, if anyone wants to launch a crusade to eliminate the oh so charming Brooklyn/Queens accent, I wouldn’t protest. :-)

    100% agree with that, but can we just expand that to any accent that renders you mute when your nose is stuffed up and you can’t talk out of it?

  66. julieannie says:

    That reminds me of Denver’s SAME Café (So All May Eat) that I read about in my Cooking Light magazine. People can pay what they want or perform services to compensate for the costs too.

  67. SJActress says:


    “I’m from ‘Cape cop’ and I speak perfect, well articulated English. I use the letter ‘r’. I only know about 3 people with the affliction you’ve described, which to non-assholes is known as AN ACCENT.”

    Exactly. Well, almost. There’s a difference between an ACCENT and a DIALECT.

    Since English is your native language, you speak English with a Cape “cop” DIALECT.

    A native French person who speaks English as a second language does so with a French ACCENT.

    I suppose the person who first posted his ignorance thinks that everyone should speak “General American”, or they’re “doing it wrong.” That’s just not the case.

    I’m an actor, by the way, with specialization in Accents and Dialects, and the person who thinks Cape “coppers” can’t speak English is just, well, stupid. Can he/she break into a Cape “cop” dialect without thinking about it? Probably not. So why should he/she expect you Cape “coppers” to break into General American?

    Ick. Ignorance sucks.

  68. chiieddy says:

    @battra92: Yes YEARS. At least two – three. You’re banned from the forums where I know you elsewhere. They love you THAT much.

  69. battra92 says:

    @Lambasted: Wow, why such hostility towards Maine accents?

    Eh, it’s more because I tend to associate it with Red Sox fans who are probably the rudest fans on earth. That and I just saw My Fair Lady so I thought I’d made a joke about accents and dialect since everyone in the video, especially the proprietor had them. I don’t hate, but it is annoying that others get defensive.

    And for all the people making fun of my cod/cop typo, remember that some people have a mild case of dyslexia and cannot always see the difference in letters, especially those which are so similar.

  70. trevkong says:

    We have a similar restaurant here in SLC, UT, called the world cafe. Instead of pro-rating meals, its based on “pay what you think it was worth” basically you pay whatever you think the food was worth at the end. It has been thriving for years now on this system. Foods tasty too.