Growing appetite for cafes with a cause in India

Restaurants that serve inclusion along with food

Society

December 28, 2020

/ By / New Delhi

Growing appetite for cafes with a cause in India

Some concept cafes inclining towards the motto 'cafes with a cause', not only serve delicious food but they seek to evoke visitors’ conscience on social issues

These cafés not only serve delicious food, but also seek to stir up one’s conscience. These have been focal points to create awareness, support social causes and fight social stigma.

Of late, the mushrooming of pretty little cafes along the length and breadth of the country has been rampant. From hanging out at well-designed cafes or chilling at a decked-up diner, the cafe culture is seemingly taking root in almost all the metropolises and other nooks and crannies of the country.

In a country like India, with rising social issues like inequality, poverty and many such, a few initiatives have been taken to create and instil awareness in people against these social banes in several ways.

Some concept cafes inclining towards the motto ‘cafes with a cause’, not only serve a hot cuppa with delicious food but they seek to evoke visitors’ conscience on the social issues that plague the society.

These cafes with a cause not just cater to visitors’ hunger but also try to share a humble perspective on social inequality and stigma. Here is a list of cafes to hop in, across different parts of India, that have taken on the challenge of redefining the food industry with their noble initiative and courage.

Seva Cafe, Bengaluru

Seva-Cafe-Banglore

Sewa café’s menu is devoid of a price list and the check reads INR zero

It is a café which is run by volunteers and works on a ‘pay forward’ premise. The café’s menu is devoid of a price list and the check reads INR zero!

Founded by Sushil Nair and a bunch of his friends, the café is run entirely by an army of volunteers who cook and serve meals to its visitors that are already paid for. Meals in this café are served as a gift to the next customer from the previous. The diner runs on a principle of ‘peer to peer’ generosity and at the end of a scrumptious meal, in place of the bill you get handed with a little note that reads: “Your meal was a gift from someone who came before you. To keep the chain of gifts alive, we invite you to pay it forward for those to dine after you.”

Guests of the diner make contributions to keep the spirit of the peer to peer generosity of the pace alive. Hence the name ‘Seva‘ which means ‘to serve’.

Participate, dine and enjoy this humble effort to make you and someone else’s next meal a memorable one.

Tihar Jail Food Court, New Delhi

Tihar-Jail-food-court

The Tihar food court is a little canteen which is run by the jail inmates of the Tihar Jail

The Tihar food court is a little canteen which is run by the jail inmates of the Tihar Jail. Infamous, iconic and one of the strictest and largest jails in south-east Asia, the Tihar Jail has an interesting twist to it.

As a token of rewarding the jail inmates for their good conduct and to give them a chance to lead a better life after serving their punishment terms, the jail has a fully functional canteen run by its inmates. It acts as a rehabilitation centre, made by the authorities, where the convicts are employed as waiters and staff and are given a life beyond the bars.

From mouth-watering sandwiches to the appetising samosas (a fried pastry, traditionally stuffed with spicy, tangy potatoes & onion) or savoury vegetarian thalis (plates), this unusual food court serves almost everything.

Sheroes Hangout Cafe, Agra

Sheros-Hangout-cafe

Sheroes cafe is run by acid attack survivors from across the country

Sheroes cafe is run by acid attack survivors from across the country. Visitors can experience Agra, the city of wonders, in a new way while visiting the Sheroes Hangout Cafe in the city. Just a lane away from the timeless beauty Taj Mahal, the cafe is known to draw patrons from all over the world. The staff and waitresses who work here are all women and have one thing in common that they have all been the victims of devastating assaults by people who threw acid at them.

The place runs on a pay-as-you-wish concept. “Visit the cafe and get speechless with the resilient spirit of the staff, their poignant stories and of course the delicious food they serve,” says Yashaswi Dwarpal, a resident of Agra and a regular at the café.

Other than delightful servings of good food and brave stories, the cafe also sells paintings and crafts made by its employees and has a gathering space for performances.

Nanma Maram at Pappadavada, Kochi

Nanma-Maram-at-Pappadavada

Nanma Maram is a free community fridge that serves the poor and hungry

Nanma Maram is a free community fridge that serves the poor and hungry. Owned by Minu Pauline, restaurant Pappadavada in Kochi is a popular food joint that has come up with a unique solution to aid the needy and the hungry.

The restaurant has installed a public fridge where staff makes sure there are at least 50 food packs in the fridge daily. Apart from that all the leftover uneaten food from the restaurant is also available in the refrigerator which can be accessed by any hungry person.

“This noble initiative, called the Nanma Maram, which literally translates into ‘the giving tree’, is a great way to not waste food in a country where many die of chronic hunger and hunger-related diseases every year,” Pauline explains.

The diner also accepts excess food donated by people. Pauline requests people to mark the date of preparation of the food on the packets they donate to check and take out the food that expires. At any time of the day, one can head there to try out some delicious Kerala cuisine and also help feed the needy.

Nukkad Tea Cafe, Raipur

Nukkad-Tea-Cafe

Nukkad Tea Café, employs and recruits only the verbally and audibly challenged as staff

This Raipur, Chhattisgarh based café, employs and recruits only the verbally and audibly challenged as staff. One can have a great time at the Nukkad Tea Cafe, not just by indulging in some hot cuppa and banter but discussing books with the like-minded, making new friends and communicating in sign language with hearing and speech impaired staff members.

The cafe provides a special discount to people who deposit their phones at the reception, the purpose being ‘disconnect to connect’. An initiative that started in 2013, the cafe aims to not just provide a unique dining experience, but also sensitise the fully-abled and functional people to the challenges of being a hearing or a speech-impaired person. “Indulge in their delicious spread and the warm smiles, indomitable spirit and positive energy of the staff,” says Veena Narayan, a Raipur based teacher and a regular at the café.

Mirchi & Mime restaurant, Mumbai

“A novel and heart-warming social experiment, Mirchi & Mime is a place where food speaks so loudly that the servers don’t need to,” says Tanya Sinha, a fashion student who often hangs out at Mirchi and Mime with her friends.

This place is entirely supported by hearing and speech-impaired staff and has an easy-to-follow gesture glossary attached to the menu. Visitors can simply point at their selection and indicate the number of portions. The co-owners, Prashant Issar and Anuj Shah, were inspired by Signs, a restaurant in Toronto, Canada, which is also wait-staffed by hearing-impaired servers.

Writers’ café, Chennai

A beautifully-decorated Swiss bakery in Chennai, Writer’s Café gives burn survivors a new lease of life. Not only does this café employ them, but it also provides training in culinary arts.

The owner, M Mahadevan, decided to start this cafeteria after a deeply-moving visit to the Prevention International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC), café’s website says. Launched in a tie-up with PCVC, this wonderful food joint is helping burn survivors wear scars on their sleeves with utmost dignity and confidence.

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