Watch: Dubai restaurant offers free lunch to the jobless

Watch: Dubai restaurant offers free lunch to the jobless

Dubai - "Hunger is a universal need and job seekers usually aren't able to have enough food, hence the initiative."

By Yousuf Saifuddin Kapadia

Published: Sat 21 Jan 2017, 3:15 PM

Last updated: Sat 21 Jan 2017, 11:41 PM

A restaurant in Dubai has recently made headlines with a 'delicious' offer that has gone viral on social media.
Breaking the rules of the business and going where not many restaurants have dared to go - a small Chinese restaurant is serving 'free' meals to the city's job seekers.
Thousands of graduates and experienced professionals visit UAE, particularly the city of lights, every year for better job opportunities and make a life for themselves. However, the job search in this fiercely competitive market takes a toll on many, both physically and financially.
Mostly hailing from middle-class backgrounds, many job hunters find it difficult to afford proper meals - and it was this demand that inspired the founders of 'Nom Nom Asia' to start serving free lunch combos to the unemployed or the jobless.
An idea that started nearly two years back has satisfied many job seekers, and what makes the cause so noble is that they don't necessarily have to pay for the meals, but can choose to pay for it at a later date after they get a job.
The owners insist on not labelling their initiative as 'charity' as it simply serves to fulfill a basic need - hunger - which is why the campaign is not promoted as a charity. "This is not a charity, but the Almighty has been kind to us so it doesn't hurt our business much. There is a need to eat and jobless people usually go to bed without having enough food. The cause comes first," said Vivek Kumar Balani, owner of Nom Nom Asia.
"Usually five or six out of 10 people, who have availed the offer, get a job and half of them do return back to pay for their meal and sometimes with their families."
"But it doesn't matter if they don't pay back."
The business - comprising two branches - is run by him, his wife and brother-in-law. One branch is situated in Barsha while the other in Karama.
Commenting on whether are there any background checks to determine who is actually jobless and needs a meal or do they take the person's word for it, Balani surprisingly said that there are no such checks since the cause comes first for them.
"It's like charity - many times we are not sure if the money is going to the right people, but it's the intention and the cause that comes first, which is why we don't verify whether a person is really needy. It's blind trust."
Although the offer has been around for nearly two years, it recently went viral after a blogger visited one of their branches and wrote about it, along with this picture of the offer notice:

Before they knew it, the post had been picked up by local media, which triggered a rise in jobless people visiting the restaurant for the free combo.
"25 people availed the offer in three days since the post went viral," Balani added.
All good things comes to an end, so will they ever end this campaign? "If we realise that people are taking advantage of the cause, depriving those who actually need the combo meal, then we might reconsider our initiative but otherwise we decide to continue with it.
"Also if we feel that the number of customers are increasing and causing an inconvenience to the paying customers then we may allocate a time for the offer, maybe a three-hour bracket in the afternoon."
Coincidentally for Nom Nom Asia, their giving initiative has garnered attention in UAE's 'Year of Giving' - an initiative launched by The President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
As part of this initiative, His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Dubai Ruler, launched the UAE Food Bank initiative - a non-profit charitable organisation committed to distributing food to those in need while eliminating food waste.
The UAE Food Bank will collaborate with local authorities as well as local and international charities to introduce a comprehensive ecosystem improving the efficiency of food storage, packaging, and distribution. Balani lauded the initiatives of UAE's leaders and urged expats and residents to support such causes throughout the country since at the end of the day it's the paying customers that make it possible to sustain such noble causes.
"True wealth is in the goodwill you earn by doing something for the world."
Any word of advice for job seekers in UAE? Drawing from his personal experience, the businessman with a 15-year experience in retail said: "Consider looking for a job as a job in itself and be up early - as employers are most likely to call you then. Don't worry as there is a bigger plan out there for you and something will work out.
"And if  you ever need a free lunch, do visit Nom Nom Asia."

We chat with a few job seekers at one of the branches:  

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