Salt Lake City’s One World Cafe is having trouble making payroll. This, unto itself, isn’t news; most restaurants have the life spans of fruit flies, and One World has lasted a respectable five years. The reason its troubles are making headlines is that the restaurant was founded on a nontraditional business principle: Don’t bother having menus. Use locally grown and organic ingredients. And let customers pay whatever they feel like for the food they’ve eaten.
An attempt to expand the concept and a slapdash approach to employee management have led to personnel changes (the firing of a popular longtime manager) and speculation about the restaurant’s future. All that said: Lasting five years on the honor system is no small feat. The restaurant’s founder claims her place is in no immediate danger of closing; but this summer, meal donations fell to an average of $7, down from $10. Things don’t look good.