CHENNAI: The red board at Food Consulate’s FC Cafe in Velachery is dotted with yellow post-its. These are not meant to jolt one’s memory but to proudly display the names of those who have opted to lend a hand to the less privileged.
FC Cafe is one of the few establishments in the city that have decided to ‘Pay It Forward’.When customers pay their bill, all they have to do is add `50 to the bill amount. “We will use that amount to make a nutritious meal for an underprivileged person,” says M Mohamed Ali, director, Food Consulate.

Most people would have heard of the famous `Suspended Coffees’ movement launched by John Sweeney . How it works is simple. When you go for your daily dose of caffeine, you pay for an extra cup, which can be claimed by a needy person later.

The idea, which became popular world over, is now catching up in Chennai. “I first read about it on Facebook,” says Ali, who launched the initiative at his cafe in July, and now has four or five people opting for it every week.

Chef Koushik aka the Mad Chef plans to launch a similar initiative at Maplai, a south Indian casual dining restaurant, on November 14, Children’s Day .”When the restaurant turned one in the first week of October, we had a promo offer -a `Buy One Get One Free’ veg thali,” says Koushik, COO, Maplai.”But I found that many people who came alone to eat, wanted us to give away the free thali to a deserving person.” So, from November 14, cus tomers can buy a thali and pur chase another by paying just Rs 99 extra, which will go towards a thali for a poor person. “The nutritious veg thali consists of rice, sambar, kuruma, keerai poriyal, curd, barotta, vadagam and pickle,” says Koushik.

Though restaurants in Chennai have picked up the con cept, they are carrying it out a little differently . Unlike in the West, poor people here are una ware of the concept and hesitate to walk into cafes, feel restaura teurs. That is why Ali, along with his staff, cooks up nutri tious meals with the money that customers have donated on the last Friday of every month. “We make some variety rice, or chap pati and kurma and then dis tribute it to the less fortunate in and around Velachery,” says Ali, adding that customers also get a receipt for the donation.

Maplai has tied up with the Smiles Charitable Trust. “When we collect money for 100 thalis we will cook food and give it to the Trust, which will in turn distribute them to orphanages and homes around Chennai,” says Koushik.

Both Ali and Kaushik have also been distributing food to the needy and homeless wel before launching their initia tives. “We thought we should share that experience of giving with our customers too,” says Koushik.

People like Ganesan B K who opted for the initiative at FC Cafe, feel it is a small step to fund a good cause. “It is a smal amount but can make a big dif ference in someone else’s life,” says the 35-year-old analyst.

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Source: TOI-Che