KOTTAYAM: Nair’s tea shops were unpretentious eateries that once dotted the countryside. They served mostly traditional fare like puttu, parippuvada, uzhunnu vada, etc, and were popular with their clientele. For many in the Nair community, acclaimed for its culinary skills, these were a source of good revenue up until the latter half of the 1990s.
The advent of Chinese and Arab food, however, saw these tea shops giving way to modern restaurants and food courts. With the aim of rebranding the ‘nayarude chayakada’ into a modern, organised restaurant chain, the Nair Service Society (NSS) declared project Padma Café in 2017, which has started spreading its wings.
The NSS now plans to launch Padma Café pure vegetarian restaurants across the state. “The brand name is the shortened form of Padmanabhan. We have already launched five restaurants — in Adoor, Kottarakkara, Pathanamthitta, Cherthala and Aluva — and five more will be opened soon. We hope to open at least 50 Padma Cafés across the state this year,” said G Sukumaran Nair, general secretary of the NSS.
The restaurants will serve quality food, ensuring hygiene at all stages of preparation and service, says Sukumaran Nair. “We see it as a social service and quality food will be served in clean, safe conditions. The chain uses pesticide-free vegetables. We aim to make Padma Café a leading restaurant brand in the state,” he added.
We have invested Rs 75 lakh to Rs 1 crore in each outlet, with modern facilities in the kitchen and dining hall. “We also ensure that leftovers are not used the following day. It is for staff members to either use or destroy them at the end of the day,” said C Anil Kumar, NSS Kottarakkara taluk union secretary.
Apart from providing quality food at reasonable rates, the NSS considers the project as a major business opportunity, providing employment to community members, especially women. Each restaurant will be under the management of the Mannam Social Service Society that functions under respective NSS taluk union committees. The majority of employees are women, with a few male staffers to help them.
Each outlet provides employment to as many as 25 women. The women staff members are selected from the Women’s Self-Help Group of the NSS and they are provided training after recruitment.