UAE-based authentic Pakistani restaurant Des Pardes has started feeding people in need, amidst the on-going lockdown and movement restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Our aim is to not let those in real need stay hungry,” stress partners of Oud Metha-based Des Pardes – Ali Khan and Hingora families. “As such, Des Pardes offers low-priced meals – around AED30 for two – for people belonging to the low-income bracket. All of a sudden, owing to the current pandemic, we saw a significant drop in visitation, around 70%. We started noticing how our regular diners were ordering a parantha and tea instead of a full meal. When we spoke to them, mainly taxi drivers, they told us about their challenges; how they were hardly making enough money to eat. We quickly took the decision to offer free meals to people in need.”
Since March 30, 2020, Des Pardes has donated 7,000 free meals to taxi drivers, labour accommodations and families in need. In addition, Des Pardes is also donating 50 free meals daily to two fridges at Al Barsha near Hessa Street and Oud Metha, which is replenished, also meant for construction workers, cab drivers and people in need.
What prompted you to start the food donation initiative?
Initially, we thought of offering food at reduced prices, but eventually decided to donate food packages. We started out by giving three free meals in a day to taxi drivers in need. The word spread quickly and we started receiving more requests for food. Then we decided to reach more such people in need for food. Doors kept opening up, as we started receiving donations from individuals – ranging from AED20-1,000 – keen to contribute towards the food donation initiative. People were keen to donate to labour camps, accommodation for taxi drivers as well as individual families in need. Currently, we are donating 600 food packages daily.
What kind of food are you offering in the packages?
We have two options for the food packages. The vegetarian meal includes daal (lentil), sabzi (vegetables) and roti (flatbread) along with labaan. The non-vegetarian meal includes chicken biriyani and labaan. In addition, if someone visits the restaurant and asks for food, we offer to them whatever is cooked that day.
Is your restaurant staff involved in cooking and delivering food?
Yes, our staff is involved in cooking the meals for food donation, while one of us (partners) deliver the packages to different locations – between the radius of Oud Metha and Sharjah and Oud Metha and Dubai Marina. We are also donating to several families in need; so, if on a certain day, we are not able to deliver in a certain area, we let them know in advance. But, so far, deliveries have not been disrupted.
What hygiene measures are you maintaining at the restaurant and while delivering?
Our staff and we have to wear face mask and glove all the time in the restaurant, in addition to regular and frequent sanitisation of the space. Importantly, when we go to deliver the food packages, we don’t hand it over to the individuals. Instead, we leave it with the manager of the labour / taxi driver accommodations. It is done in a well-organised manner bearing in mind safety and hygiene requirements.
How are you staying afloat while doing good?
We had the option of shutting down the restaurant. But we have 40 people employed with us and we didn’t want to abandon them, especially at the time of crisis. We are taking a huge hit, because business has dried up. We are aware that it will take a while to recover from the losses. The very limited home deliveries that we are doing aren’t enough to even cover a portion of the cost we are incurring. But we will continue to absorb all costs, so as to pay full salaries of our staff, feed them daily and not make anyone redundant at this time. And, we will continue donating food until the crisis subsides. We are heading into Ramadan, a period when we always donate food to mosques for people in need. Since that might not be possible this year, we will try to reach people who are truly in need for food. It is our moral responsibility to offer food to those in need, until the market normalises.