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". It has now spread around the globe.

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)

Karma Kitchen is inspired by the same spirit of service that drives the beautiful work of many organizations and individuals who selflessly give to others. This restaurant is an experiment in bringing that spirit of service further into the mainstream community and in inviting everyone to join together in a circle of giving.

Most of the workers at Karma Kitchen are freely giving their time to serve others. In the process, they are intentionally cultivating their personal ideals of selflessness, grace, and generosity. In this way, Karma Kitchen is a "school of service" for all of us who work to make the guest experience here happy, nutritional, and satisfying.

The food we present is offered in the truest spirit of giving -- without a price tag.

Our guests bring the giving full circle, by giving in two ways. First, by dining at Karma Kitchen, they provide us the opportunity to serve, which we cherish. Second, they have an opportunity to participate in keeping this pay-it-forward cycle alive by contributing for the next guest after them.

By sustaining this cafe, our guests help to shape a future rooted in celebration of abundance rather than fear of scarcity, in trust rather than trade, in shared commitment rather than selfishness, in connectivity rather than isolation, in participation rather than exclusion.

We hope that Karma Kitchen guest see their role in this enterprise not merely as one of consumer, but as a more deeply invested participant.



Each Karma Kitchen is uniquely local and yet alike in its heart-centered approach. Most of our locations have their own specific videos but here's one video that accurately provides a flavor of a typical Karma Kitchen:

[More Videos]

Press Coverage

Karma Kitchen has been covered by dozens of media outlets, tweeted by many celebrities and received top ratings on restaurant review websites. Below is a sampling of three press stories:

SF Chronicle Washington Post CS Monitor
Karma Kitchen Has Selflessness on the Menu (intro by Deepak Chopra!) Serving up Trust and Generosity (and in Washingtonian). A Restaurant with No Checks

Additionally, we're also very proud of the labor of love reflections that people tend to write on their blogs and local platforms. Like when a volunteer wrote about Taste of a New Counter-Culture in an art magazine, or when guest wrote about it in a local food magazine, or when UC Berkeley's student paper covered Dishing Out Generosity.

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. (See also Minah Jung's research paper on Paying More When Paying For Others -- and more.)

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.

What does it take to start Karma Kitchen in my community?
Typically, it requires a committed group of 4-5 volunteers and a participating restaurant. Take a look at our startup guide and if you feel like you can bring KK to your community, drop us a note and we'll pair you up with a coordinator who can help. You may also like to take a look at this video for a deeper look:

How can I contact you?
Write to us anytime through our online form.