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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A London restaurant has decided to do away with bills for the next month, asking customers to pay only what they want for meals in an unorthodox bid to beat the credit crunch.
The Little Bay restaurant in central London, one of four owned by restaurateur Peter Ilic, will present diners with absolutely nothing when they ask for the cheque during February, leaving it up to them to decide what the meal was worth.
"Anything between a penny and 50 pounds ($70) will make me happy, it's entirely up to the customer to decide," Ilic said on Tuesday, sounding confident about the prospects as he sat on a purple couch is his brightly colored, arty restaurant, known for its bistro-style Mediterranean cuisine.
"It just seemed the right thing to do with everyone under the cash and feeling pretty miserable," he said.
Times have not been easy for London restaurants in recent months as the credit crisis and a deepening recession have hit everyone, from ordinary city workers to highly paid bankers.
Whereas once high-flying hedge-fund managers from the London financial district known as the City might seek out the most ostentatiously expensive lunch they could find -- and top London restaurants would willingly oblige -- now the order of the day is austerity and a decent, tasty bargain.
Ilic, a long-standing player in the London restaurant business, is well-known for his value gourmet food, but now he's gone one step further and effectively cut prices to zero.
"We have seen so many more City folk coming into the restaurant lately, looking for a better value lunch," he said, explaining what gave him the idea, similar to that used by major bands like Radiohead to sell their CDs.
If people like something, they'll pay for it, the idea goes, and already Ilic has seen evidence that it works.
"Customers have already paid 20 percent more than the original price," he said, confident that he will more than cover his expenses for the month. "People want to be polite and would be embarrassed not to pay enough."
Not only is the deal pretty attractive for those who might decide to pay nothing, the food is pretty tempting too.
Starters include crab tartelette, foie gras terrine and goat cheese souffle, while main courses range from duck breast to steamed butterfish and filet steak.
The only thing customers definitely have to pay for are their drinks. But for those really suffering in the credit crisis, the tap water is served free.
Editing by Paul Casciato