A new pop-up restaurant where people pay as much as they can afford is being trialled at one of Pāpāmoa's iconic restaurant venues in a bid to bring the community together.
Everybody Eats is a pay-as-you-feel set menu serving restaurant-quality, three-course meals prepared by volunteer chefs, from food that would otherwise go to waste.
The seven-week trial restaurant has been set up at Bluebiyou in Pāpāmoa operating every Monday evening.
Founder Nick Loosley said the business venture started three years ago in Auckland and was now at the stage where he could test the initiative in other regions.
"We welcome everyone and anyone. Because it is koha-based or the option to dine for free, we do get some homeless people who aren't able to contribute to their meals," he said.
"But we also have diners who can pay and donate generously for their meals because they know it is subsidising the less fortunate. We also have everyone in between, including the working poor who just pay what they can.
"The whole idea is breaking some of those social barriers with food so it brings the community together."
If successful, Loosley said the idea could turn into a permanent one and be replicated at a restaurant of its own.
So far, Loosley said there had been about 100 people each night in the last three weeks.
"We are seeing lots of large families of about eight or 10 people."
He encouraged people to come to the 7pm slot. There were no bookings - just first in, first served.
Loosley said chefs from Alpino the Mount and Cambridge, as well as the former chef from Clarence Hotel and Bistro, had volunteered for some evenings and Bluebiyou chef Matt Schaeffer had worked hard on his days off while they built interest among other Tauranga chefs.
"This is an opportunity for local chefs to use their skills to help the community ... It is all volunteer-driven."
He said they were using food that would otherwise go to waste donated by Good Neighbour and tea towels had been donated by Tauranga Commercial Laundry.
"There are a lot of people out there supporting it locally."
Bluebiyou owner Nathan Schaeffer said his brother Matt Schaeffer worked with Nick Loosley in Auckland years ago, which is how they got involved.
"It is an experiment at the moment," he said. "But it is an awesome initiative, especially after Covid-19."
Schaeffer said they opened up the function room for the diners every Monday and they have also had people from Kai Aroha and Under the Stars enjoy the pay-as-you-feel menu.
"The idea is about creating an opportunity for all society to get together and eat together as one," he said. "It has been well received with the public."
A front-of-house employee had even come in on her day off to help facilitate the event.
"She has been so inspired by the idea."
Kai Aroha founder Tania Lewis-Rickard said Everybody Eats' mission lined with Kai Aroha's goals to feed those who are experiencing food poverty and to reduce social isolation.
Kai Aroha is a volunteer, non-profit organisation providing a free community meal to people who don't have enough food to feed themselves and their loved ones.
"A lot of the community whanau who come to Kai Aroha, sometimes socialising can be a barrier to them. So to be a familiar face we go down every Monday and greet the whānau and the community at the door."
Lewis-Rickard hoped the initiative would continue in Tauranga after the seven-week trial.
"It is awesome. Everyone just comes in for kai and they sit together. Some people have been so inspired they go back and get their Eftpos cards and make a koha."
What: Everybody Eats
Where: Trial pop-up at Bluebiyou, Pāpāmoa
When: Monday nights from 6pm to 8pm
About: Each week a different chef takes over the kitchen for a three-course, pay-as-you-feel set menu. No Alcohol. No bookings, first in, first served.