You’ve probably seen the scene quite a few times in movies and cartoons where somebody doesn’t have enough money to cover a meal in a restaurant and ends up washing mounds of dirty dishes in the kitchen.
The Troboda, a restaurant in Catalonia, Spain, offers an alternative menu for customers who are unable to pay for their bill and caters to the long-term employed living below the poverty line. Instead of stiffing servers when it comes time to pay, those who cannot afford to dine out do an hour’s worth of work to make up for their meals.
In exchange for their dining experience and free meal, customers contribute time to either serving, washing dishes or cleaning.
Xavier Casas, the restaurant’s owner estimates that more than 15,000 hours of voluntary work will be generated during the project’s first year.
“Unlike soup kitchens which play a social role, the restaurant scheme is different. They’re complementary. This is aimed at people wanting to regain their self-esteem and improve their daily lives,” he said.
The restaurant has become part of a social club and meals here are served as part of a work exchange, a joint venture with the Terrassa city council and 30 local charities.
One customer, Julia Gonzalez, is grateful to have a place to go and feel welcomed. After losing her job as a cleaner two years ago, she has found solace at the Troboda.
“I think this is great. I love it. Since I have been here I feel more optimistic. I have made lots of friends. We all stick together and encourage each other. It is a unique opportunity,” she explained.
The business’ budget comes from its paying customers, while those unable to pay use the model as an alternative way of contributing to the economy.
In the first quarter of 2013, it was calculated that more than 6.2 million people were unemployed in Spain.