In exchange for lunch, a diner can volunteer an hour of time to work as a dishwasher or server in the restaurant. La Trobada serves an average of 70 meals a day, about half of them paid for with time behind an apron.
After three months of regularly volunteering, people can keep doing voluntary work in other positions within the company. The so-called "time workers" are people who have been unemployed for two or three years and currently live below the poverty line.
The project is a joint venture between the Terrassa city council and 30 local charities, with an estimated 2013 budget of $227,000, about a quarter of which comes from paying diners.
The restaurant hopes to engage the many unemployed people who are discouraged and in some cases isolated. Restaurant manager Xavier Casas believes the social value of the time exchange program will help build loyalty among local paying customers.
The number of people out of work in Spain rose to 6.2 million in 2013; a record 27.2 percent jobless rate. Miquel Perez, who volunteers at the restaurant, said people enjoy the opportunity to work. "It's also very good that there are people who still wake up in the morning thinking about how to help others.”