About Karma Kitchen

Karma Kitchen first opened in Berkeley on March 31st 2007, by several volunteers inspired to seed the value of a "gift economy".

Run by volunteers, our meals are cooked and served with love, and offered to the guest as a genuine gift. To complete the full circle of giving and sustain this experiment, guests make contributions in the spirit of pay-it-forward to those who will come after them. In keeping this chain going, the generosity of both guests and volunteers helps to create a future that moves from transaction to trust, from self-oriented isolation to shared commitment, and from fear of scarcity to celebration of abundance. Our chain of gifts has been able to continue for:

With volunteers contributing:

(Numbers updated weekly)



Press Coverage

Karma Kitchen has been covered by dozens of media outlets. Below is a sampling of a few.

Commonly Asked Questions

Who pays for my meal at Karma Kitchen?
At Karma Kitchen your meal has been paid for by someone who came before you. Since it's a gift, you can't pay them back -- but you can pay-it-forward by making a contribution that will allow future guests to experience the same generosity. It is this circle of giving that allows Karma Kitchen to keep going.

Who runs Karma Kitchen?
Karma Kitchen is run by a dynamic group of volunteers that assembles at the restaurant each week to practice generosity through the simple act of serving a meal. Among them are teachers, artists, doctors, students, grandmothers, engineers and activists; people often come back to serve but it.s never the same crew twice! Formally, Karma Kitchen is a project of ServiceSpace, a unique nonprofit organization that ignites and supports small expressions of service through technology.

How is Karma Kitchen faring?
At this time, Karma Kitchen is able to sustain itself through guest contributions; any surplus that is received goes towards supporting an array of gift-economy/generosity projects that work towards a common good. Many of the special items you see on the Kindness Table are made available through these projects.

How Can I Get Involved?
Volunteering at Karma Kitchen is a great way to get involved. Sign up and we'll send you more information. Share your experience as a guest with friends and family who you think would resonate with the concept -- we'd love to serve them too! Ultimately Karma Kitchen is a platform for expressing generosity, so if you have any pay-it- forward ideas that you'd like to share with us, feel free to reach out.

What is the gift economy?
In a gift economy, goods and services are given without any strings attached; it is an economic system where it is the circulation of the gifts within the community that leads to increase -- increase in connections, increase in relationship strength; in this context, hoarding actually decreases wealth. At its core, gift-economy is a shift from consumption to contribution, transaction to trust, scarcity to abundance, and isolation to community.

A Deeper Look (Video)

Other Projects Embracing This Model

In the recent years, there have been an increasing number of pay-as-you-wish restaurant sightings around the globe! While Karma Kitchen is subtly different in its pay-it-forward as-you-wish model, these experiments are collectively helping shift the dominant, transactional paradigm:

There's clearly something to the joy of serving food, and since 2007, local volunteers in Berkeley have also been enjoying another exciting opportunity to grow in generosity. We are thankful for the opportunity.