A Fresh Take on the Community Café

Article Written by Becky Dumais

Inside the Burlington Arts Centre is a unique space that not only challenges the traditional business model, but also shows an interesting new way for a not-for-profit organization to raise money. The Paywhatyoulike Community Café carries a wonderful selection of grab-and-go foods and beverages, but the price for each item is merely a suggestion. The money spent on a meal or snack is then put towards children’s art programs.


The Paywhatyoulike Café was opened in November 2012 by the Ampersand Group, which owns a number of popular restaurants in Burlington. The restaurants under their umbrella contribute to what’s on the menu at any given time; it means great food made available from terrific restaurants, but at a fraction of the price. Contributors include: Chef Callen Clancy of SB Prime, Chef Jake Rujevic and Sous Chef Daniel Pascoa of Eatalia, Chef Richard Ife and Sue Ashley from The Dickens Pub, and Chef James Hall of the Rude Native,  to name a few.


While the café’s name may seem like a mouthful, it gets the point across. All of the items have suggested cafe-merchandiser-2prices, which the cashier rings up at the register. You can pay that amount or give more if you choose. All of the money earned from the café then goes to the Burlington Arts Centre’s arts programs for kids.  According to Lisa Nicol, Marketing & Design Co-ordinator for Ampersand Group, the goal is for the café to generate donations continuously compared to a typical once-a-year fundraising event. “We strongly believe that people like to support their community,” says Nicol, “especially when it comes to shaping the lives of the youngest members who live in it.”


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