‘Receipt Walls’ Let Restaurant Patrons Prepay To Provide Hot Meals For The Hungry

Some restaurants let customers hang license plates or Chianti bottles from the walls. But a growing number of restaurants in northeast Oklahoma and beyond are hanging meal receipts.

A cluster of restaurants in northeast Oklahoma aims to help those who might need a free meal with their “receipt walls” or “giving walls.” Customers can pre-pay for different food items or meals on a restaurant’s menu, and the receipt for those items is put up on a wall for the taking by someone in the future. Anyone in need can take down a receipt and get the food items on it for free.

“We just want it to be a place where people come in like you would at your mom’s house and order what you want,” Beth Hilburn of the Hi-Way Cafe in Vinita, Oklahoma, told local TV journalist Sawyer Buccy. That includes those that can’t pay.

“If a family in need of food comes into the cafe, they are treated just like any other paying customer and then the family will eat a meal paid for by a complete stranger,” Buccy shared on her Facebook page with some photos from her recent visit to the Hi-Way Cafe. Tips for wait staff are often included too.

Here’s her post:

Receipt walls aren’t a new idea but they seem to have struck a chord as more and more people buy pre-paid meals to support them. The demand for the free food is certainly there.

“I didn’t realize how many people in need there were in my community,” Hilburn said to Insider. “Especially with the way the economy is right now, this is a big deal to a lot of people.”

Here’s a Facebook post of one donation for $100, which Hilburn said could feed 10 people.

Zak’s Cafe in Miami, Oklahoma, has both a general free wall of receipts and one specifically for veterans, whether they are in need or not.

“We had two awesome customers want to start a Veterans Wall,” the restaurant posted on April 18, sharing photos of the dedicated Veterans Wall receipt area.

While not quite the same concept, a Florida bar took down dollar bills that customers had tacked to the restaurant’s walls over the years in order to pay its wait staff during the pandemic. All the single bills came to about $10,000. And another Florida bar used the dollar bills hanging from its walls to help those in the Bahamas affected by Hurricane Dorian in 2019.

Have you seen restaurants in your area do similar pay-it-forward efforts for those in need?