Offering more than just food

An ode to spaces that are breaking the mould and redefining the concept of eating out

By Author  |  Published: 2nd Dec 2018  10:33 pm
Letting silence do the talking at Talking Hands, Begumpet.

Hyderabad’s restaurant scene is booming with new eateries opening all the time with its prix fixe menus and scrumptious platters. Considering the foodies we are, we always look forward to unique concepts.

But, there are some which go a step beyond our taste buds. Not only do they serve delicious items but also seek to stir up one’s conscience in every way. They are generating opportunities for the deserving differently-abled with their initiative to fight the social stigma; they are doing their bit to make the world a better place to live.

Talking Hands, Begumpet

A novel-yet-commercial experiment where food speaks so loudly that the servers don’t have to. This place, started by TKM Sandeep and Ramya Miryala, is entirely supported by hearing- and speech-impaired wait 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.

“B Venkatesham, secretary of Telangana Tourism, was interested in bringing out the potential of hearing-impaired individuals. He wanted to start a restaurant owned and run by them. We run an NGO called DEF Hyderabad; so, he insisted that we do it,” says Ramya Miryala, COO of Talking Hands.

Explaining it further, she says, “The CEO of DEF and Talking Hands, Sandeep, is a hearing-impaired individual himself. So, we were puzzled as to how we can initiate and run a business. But, eventually everything worked out. A donation of Rs 10 lakh was also organised to help us, and the rest of the money came from DEF. We did a lot of research on how to run a business and a restaurant. There were challenges and obstacles. We trained several students from DEF itself, recruited employees, and tied up with vendors. It was like a full-fledged military programme.”

KFC, Somajiguda

While many are opting to help the disabled, there are some who are running outlets dependent on them. This KFC restaurant is operated and managed by employees with hearing and speech impairment. These employees, who otherwise struggle with the encounters of social attention, are provided with a normal and friendly work environment that encourages them to interact with the outside world.

On asking how the whole process from recruiting to training works out, one of their executives commented, “There is an internal team that supervises and closely manages the entire programme.”

Taste of Darkness, Madhapur

As part of Dialogue in the Dark initiative, Taste of Darkness is a 45-minute gastronomical experience in complete darkness. Unlike most restaurants, this place has a concept of four-course meal as per the food preference, vegetarian or non-vegetarian. The logic behind it being that since you cannot see what you are eating, your other senses dominate by increasing your perceptions of smell and taste.

Talking about the concept, SV Krishnan, the founder, says, “In 2009, while I was waiting for a delayed flight in Atlanta, I came upon an exhibit of Dialogue in the Dark and was immensely enthralled by its powerful message and innovate techniques. This experience was also an eye-opener towards understanding Persons with Disabilities (PwDs).”

“In 2011, Hyderabad was the first city to get this experience. There is one at Chennai too and we are planning to expand it to Delhi and Mumbai. Here, the staff are visually-impaired and you leave having experienced for an hour what visually-impaired people experience on a daily basis. It makes you discover what pitch darkness does to you,” asserts Krishnan, the recipient of the ‘Social Entrepreneur of the Year’ award from Entrepreneur India.