Dubai eatery of­fers free food to job-seek­ers, no ques­tions asked

Khaleej Times - - NATION - Sa­man Haziq sa­man@khalee­j­

dubai — A restau­rant in Dubai is do­ing its busi­ness a bit dif­fer­ently by adding a lit­tle dose of phi­lan­thropy to it.

The Ke­bab Shop lo­cated at the Dubai Sil­i­con Oa­sis (DSO) dis­plays a poster on its fa­cade of­fer­ing free meals to job-seek­ers. The board reads: “If you are un­em­ployed and look­ing for a job, drop by for a meal on us. Don’t think of it as char­ity, you can come back to pay us when­ever you can.”

Over a year ago, the Pak­istaniCana­dian en­tre­pre­neur Ka­mal Rizvi, who owns the DSO branch of the restau­rant, said there was an in­ci­dent that led to the launch of this ini­tia­tive. “We had a pair of cus­tomers who would visit us on a daily ba­sis and would have their meals here and spend a good time chat­ting at our restau­rant. This was a sec­ond home to them. But af­ter some time, I no­ticed that one of them stopped com­ing.”

Upon in­quiry, Rizvi found that the man had lost his job and to curb his ex­pen­di­ture, he stopped com­ing out to eat. “I was sad to hear that and told his friend to tell him to con­tinue com­ing here and eat his meals as he used to. I told him don’t con­sider it char­ity but a loan, and later if he gets a job and wants to pay then he could come back and pay.

“He started vis­it­ing again and I saw how happy, grate­ful, and full of en­ergy the friends were,” said Rizvi. “This led me to think how many more such peo­ple would be strug­gling out there who prob­a­bly would be skip­ping meals to cut their ex­pen­di­ture. I de­cided to start an ini­tia­tive where such peo­ple would feel com­fort­able. That is why I have men­tioned on the board, ‘don’t think of it as char­ity’. Peo­ple should not feel em­bar- rassed or hes­i­tant to come.”

A Dubai res­i­dent for nine years now, Rizvi has given strict in­struc­tions to his staff not to look for any ID proof or pa­per­work and not to ask ques­tions to any cus­tomer who wants to avail of the free meal. “All that the cus­tomer has to do is point to the poster out­side and the staff won’t ask any ques­tions. The staff will sim­ply ask the cus­tomer if he wants veg­e­tar­ian or non-veg­e­tar­ian meal; rice or roti meal. Ac­cord­ingly, our staff will serve them ei­ther biryani or else roti with a curry along with a cold drink.”

When asked how of­ten the restau­rant gets such cus­tomers, Rizvi said: “They come ran­domly, some­times one or two a day. On some days, we even get a group of three or four friends, but mostly they don’t come re­peat­edly. They usu­ally come and sit shyly in a corner of the restau­rant and we serve them just like any other cus­tomers. Many of them get so over­whelmed that they write thank you notes on pa­per nap­kins and leave them on the ta­ble.”

On be­ing asked if any cus­tomer has come back to pay for the meal he had, Rizvi said: “Yes, al­though very few peo­ple have re­turned to our restau­rant ask­ing us how much they owe us and all we say is give what you feel like be­cause we do not keep a record of such ser­vice.”

Many of them get so over­whelmed that they write thank you notes on pa­per nap­kins and leave them on the ta­ble.”

Ka­mal Rizvi, Pak­istani-Cana­dian en­tre­pre­neur

Job-seek­ers who point to the eatery’s poster get to have ei­ther a veg­e­tar­ian or a non-veg­e­tar­ian meal, based on their pref­er­ence.

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