We Indians take our food very seriously. It’s a thing of love. And our unabashed inner foodies positively giggle in glee when it comes to “bahar ka khana”, i.e. restaurants – bingeing on à la carte and especially buffets – an enticing spread of a variety of dishes open to unlimited consumption. However, one of the most common occurrences during our feasting sojourns are overflowing plates and food that ultimately goes into trash cans.
Be it buffet spreads or individual orders, Indian restaurants make a sizable contribution to the total food wastage which is more than 40 per cent of what is produced. Which means, we waste more than what we create, something to think of in a country where ironically almost 194 million people sleep hungry every single day!
Following is a list of Indian restaurants that are doing things right. Read their inspiring stories about the innovative ideas they have implemented to combat food waste. :
Kedari Food Court, Warangal, Telangana
An unlimited supply of Idli, four kinds of rice, four non-veg curries and 15 veg curries is what you get for just Rs 60 at Warangal’s Kedari Food Court. Owing to this, the food court, which opens for just two hours, from 1 pm to 3 pm, gets more than 350 customers every single day.
However, despite the deluge of cheap and delicious food, only a meager quantity gets wasted every day, thanks to a system of a strict penalty imposed by its owner Lingala Kedari.
Driven by the idea that every grain is sacred, Kedari fines customers Rs 40 for the tiniest morsel wasted. Resisting the penalty only increases it to Rs 100 which finally can go as high as Rs 500.
“I come from a very poor background and left home to earn money when I was just 14. I have lived through years of struggle, rummaging through dustbins to find food to even crying myself to sleep without a grain in my stomach. So, when I saw people wasting food, it was a crime in my eyes. In a country where millions go hungry, this is a serious offense and so I came up with this strict law for my restaurant. It is not only meant to teach an important lesson but also to spread awareness about food wastage,” he shares, in conversation with The Better India (TBI).
But as expected, it wasn’t easy in the beginning, he shares.
“People would often resist and so we levied more fine for that. But, sometimes when they would go rogue and still not pay up, we involved the police. The police department has been a constant support in this 3-year journey to combat food wastage,” adds Lingala who uses the amount collected to help the needy through various charitable offerings.
In the last three years of the initiative, the 20-year-old Kedari Food Court might have lost a few customers owing to its strict rules, but they have gained much more, believes Lingala. “Now people from all across the country and beyond, come to my food court to taste the delicacies, all while promoting our anti-food waste message. It makes me very happy because this is my true legacy,” shares Lingala, who runs the eatery along with his entire family.
2. The Ibnii Coorg
A popular luxury stay in Coorg, Karnataka, The Ibnii Coorg is not just another nature retreat with breathtaking views, pristine pools or beautiful interiors. It is also the seat of an innovative and important initiative – the ‘Weigh The Waste, Feed A Child’- which involves showing a social mirror to its guests by weighing their food wastage every time they eat at one of their restaurants.
In other words, on arrival every guest is informed that they will be charged for the leftovers on their table – Rs 100 per 10 grams, to send out a positive message against food wastage.
Talking about the initiative, the resort spokesperson, CSR and Marketing Advisor Shreya Krishnan says, “Last year, during a breakfast meeting at our restaurant, our Managing Director, Sherry Sebastian noticed and was shocked by the volume of food wastage. You see, at Ibnii, we prepare every single dish with a lot of care and consciousness. It is all organic and sourced in the right manner so every morsel thrown away is a big dent on that process. And when this scenario is pitted against the existence of a huge population of malnourished people in India, the matter becomes even more serious. Hence we took a step to stop this.”
Opened in 2016, the resort makes an attempt to leave a minimal carbon footprint and this move is a step towards it. And so in a matter of just three months, they were able to collect around Rs 20,000 that was later utilised to help feed and educate young girls in an orphanage in Madikeri.
They have collected Rs 200 to Rs 8000 from guests to date, they inform me.
“The road till now was not easy. We had to face a lot of questions. Many guests believed that they could waste food as it was paid for. But, then we had to ensure we educate them about the entire process that goes into growing and preparing the food, and how its waste is truly wrong. Our aim through this initiative is to set an example and bring about a behavioural change in our guests so that they value food not just in our restaurant but also everywhere else. And, when many guests send us photos of their clean plates to show how they are practicing it beyond Ibnii, it makes all of this worth it,” informs Shreya.
A year back, the resort used to generate almost 7,700 kgs of food waste a day, that would go into their 14 composting bins (with a capacity of 550 kg each). Now that has come down to filling up just one bin a day! A major save indeed.
3. Pappadavada, Kochi
When 31-year-old Minu Pauline left her job as a banker to pursue her dream of starting a small eatery in a corner of MG Road, Cochin, she knew it would be a challenging venture. But little did she know that the challenges would be more than financial and overcoming those would change her life forever.
“I started Pappadavada in 2013 and like any restaurant, we had a bulk of leftovers that would either be given to the employees or thrown into the trash can. Few years into the business, I was still struggling with this problem of food wastage. And one night, just before shutting shop, I dumped the leftovers in a trash bin and noticed an old woman picking it up from there to eat. That scene left me shocked and moved me to pieces. I decided I had to put a stop to this and find a sustainable solution,” says Minu.
So in 2016, when she moved Pappadavada to a bigger spot in Kaloor area, she started the ‘Nanma Maram’ initiative meaning ‘tree of goodness’, by installing a 420-litre fridge outside the restaurant. Every day more than 50 packets of food from the restaurant, in addition to many more donated by customers or good samaritans, are stored in the fridge. And it is open to anybody, hungry or homeless, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Meanwhile we monitor that the food is fresh and of good quality before giving it away by ensuring all packets are marked with dates of preparation. It is also compulsory for employees to carry out regular quality check of the packets,” shares Minu, whose fridge feeds at least 50 people every single day.
While her good work was appreciated by many, few were unhappy as well. “For some people watching a woman do something big all on her own and be a success at it was not something they could swallow. And sometime back my restaurant was attacked by local goons who broke down the fridge. I was scared and traumatised by the incident, but the support of my customers and people around gave me the strength to pick up the pieces and start again. So in a few weeks, I will be reinstalling the fridge,” she adds.
Pappadavada is about to open another outlet near Palarivattom and Minu is planning to install a fridge there as well.
Minu believes in the importance of the work she is doing, much like Lingala and Sherry and so will continue, no matter the challenges. It is initiatives like these that make us realize that it takes just the right amount of courage and a heart to follow through a good cause and brew the right concoction of a lasting social change. So, if they can, you can too.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)