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At Fowl Play, 'tips' can benefit other customers

Chicken concept’s charitable edge comes from employees

A new fast-casual chicken concept in Palo Alto, Calif., has opened its restaurant to all in the community — even those without money to pay.

Fowl Play, which opened in July, offers a menu of fried and rotisserie chicken and chicken “sammies,” along with salads, bowls and hearty sides.

The restaurant, however, has a unique philosophy when it comes to tips, giving those in the community who are low-income a chance to eat, thanks to the kindness of other customers.

The restaurant operates as a no-tip establishment. Instead, a bowl is available for guests to donate to Fowl Play Bucks, a dollar-for-dollar match that acts as a payment method for those who cannot afford the food on their own. The Bucks are placed on the wall discreetly and guests can simply take what they need to buy a meal.

“We made sure that despite the variance in income [in Palo Alto and Barron Park] we were very conscious that we could serve all the customers,” said owner Andrea Leslie.

Fowl Play

The container collecting Bucks was close to being full in the first two weeks of the restaurant opening, she added. Denominations available are $1, $5 and $10.

“As a community we appreciate giving back and it’s about being discreet, so people don’t feel uncomfortable but where people don’t go without,” Leslie said.

The Fowl Play Bucks system was developed by employees, who agreed to forgo tips, the company said. Being a part of the community is essential to the mission of Fowl Play, demonstrated by both their commitment to providing payment to those who cannot afford it and by hiring community members from veterans to high-school students.

“Barren Park is a very tight-knit community and they were really excited to have a new business come and offer something different than donuts and coffee,” said Leslie.

Fowl Play

Among the most popular items on the menu is the Chopped Nest, a take on a classic cobb salad but with barbecue chicken and avocado ranch dressing. The Hot Mess Sammie includes fried chicken tossed in Buffalo sauce, topped with beer-battered onion rings, Roquefort cheese and dressing, lettuce, tomato; and the Cordon Bleu mac ‘n’ cheese side comes loaded with ham, bacon, and chicken. In addition to these items, Fowl Play sells whole, half, and quarter rotisserie chickens seasoned with a tangerine-sage rub for $14.99, $9.99 and $5.99 respectively. 

Salads and bowls all come in at $10.50, sandwiches are $9.50, fried chicken ranges from $5.95 to $23.95 and all sides are under $3.25.

Leslie said about 40 percent of customer dine in, and 60 percent order to go. Delivery will likely be added down the road.

Contact Holly Petre at [email protected]

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