To Libby Birky, “Heaven is a place where all your needs are met and you’re taken care of.” But Earth is not like that, even in the world’s richest country. So Libby Birky and her husband Brad have tried to create their own little piece of Heaven in Denver, Colorado where they operate a restaurant with a “pay-what-you-can” philosophy. And unbelievable as it might seem, so far they’re making a profit. Well, it’s a non-profit so they’re making some money that isn’t necessarily a profit. Yes – it’s complicated.
The S.A.M.E. café is a place where all are invited to dine on a healthful meal, sometimes consisting of organic ingredients, prepared and served with dignity. But at the end of the meal there isn’t a busy server bearing a black leather-bound case with the check. There isn’t a cashier. What they have is a box where diners insert orange envelopes containing whatever amount the diner chose to pay. And in most cases the envelopes contain money, though the more creative set have been known to stuff the envelopes with string or pieces of napkins. And they wouldn’t have to, because the S.A.M.E. café is a place where you could literally work an hour for your food.
Brad Birky, an IT guy, and his wife Libby, a teacher, decided that there was more to life than just the daily grind. They wanted to help the poor and homeless in a more dignified way than they had seen. Hence the S.A.M.E. restaurant, So All May Eat. After the conventional business world dismissed them for being crazy, the couple withdrew $30,000 from their IRAs to fund the startup costs. For them, it was literal leap of faith, answering the call to do well by doing good. They believe their food is good enough that diners who can afford to eat in high end restaurants choose theirs because of its higher purpose.