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