‘Pay-what-you-can’ restaurant celebrates 1 year in business

Local News

ONEATA, Ala. (WIAT) — Pay-as-you-please restaurant Sweetie’s Place is celebrating a year of feeding the people of their community.

It doesn’t matter if a person is rich or broke, Sweetie’s Place Restaurant offers hot meals to anyone who comes in – the price is only what you can give.

Customer Sheila Marbut had just walked into Sweetie’s Place in Oneata for the first time.

“How much is it?” Marbut asked Phillip “Bobo” Benefield, the owner, once she got her food.

“It’s whatever you feel like paying,” Benefield answered.

That answer stunned Marbut. It’s continuing to stun the many people who hear about the restaurant and walk through their doors each day.

A Sweetie’s Place employee serves a customer from the buffet.

“When we tell them how it works, some break down and cry,” Benefield said. “Anybody can come in and eat, whether they have money or not. They can come and have dignity, because it’s all about that.”

With only one employee during the week to help him, Benefield and his employee Eric opens the doors, greets customers, cooks, cleans, serves and busses for customers.

Benefield ringing up customer, Sheila Marbut.

“We make homemade lasagna, chicken pot pie from scratch, meatloaf, double battered fried chicken with 15 different seasonings and more,” Benefield said.

A Sweetie’s Place homemade casserole.

After celebrating their first full year in business Wednesday, Benefield said he hopes they can keep doing this for years to come.

“It makes enough money to keep its doors open,” Benefield said. “We have not taken a profit or a penny out of it – there’s just none to take, but there are always hungry people.”

The Sweetie’s Place payment policy.

When dining at the restaurant, customers can get what and how much food they want from the counter. Then they eat. Before leaving, they can approach the counter and pay what they can. The system encourages those who have more to give more, to help pay for those who can’t.

The mission behind it is to build a tighter sense of community in the area.

“I saw someone that came in right after me after I left that I felt that they would probably not be able to pay,” Marbut said, reflecting on her first time in. “I felt good I could give. So eating here makes you feel good.”

Benefield and Sweetie’s Place is not asking for donations, but they always welcome contributions.

Benefield chats with a customer.

In one instance, someone drove from out of state to offer help and meet the man behind the message.

“She came in crying and hugged me. We posed for a picture and she turns around and whipped out a check for $1,000,” he said.

If you would like to help contribute to their mission to feed their community, you can send money via Venmo to @sweeties-place.


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