‘Food For Good.’ The philosophy that fuels F&B entrepreneur Ronald Khoo’s recently launched Mango Chili restaurant reflects an encouraging trend that’s rising this year among Malaysian eateries: A hunger to give back to society through inventive new ideas.
At Mango Chili, a casual Thai cafe in Bangsar South, the concept is elegantly straightforward, enabling customers to contribute simply by eating here. For every meal consumed, the restaurant donates one meal to an underprivileged child under a programme nicknamed ‘Meal For A Meal.’
Mango Chili has provided more than 25,000 meals for children between March and October this year.
“Many customers are surprised when we tell them at the end of the dinner that they have helped feed a number of kids tonight,” Khoo says. “This surprise turns into a good feeling, and we have had repeat customers; some turned their corporate lunch or dinners into a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative. So we are very grateful for this.”
One meal consumed at Mango Chili is defined as RM20 spent, while the cost of a meal for a child ranges between RM2 and RM7, often depending on the child’s age.
The meals are distributed in different ways. When it opened in March 2014, Mango Chili kicked off by helping to fund the Dignity For Children Foundation’s kitchen in a local learning centre where children in need can have at least one healthy meal every day.
It plans to explore other options such as supplying raw ingredients weekly to an orphanage and launching a central commissary where it can cook meals and deliver them directly to a community.
Khoo’s ambitions are far-reaching. He says his ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’ is to grow the business to a level where his group can regionally feed 10 million children in need every year.
There are other ways as well for a restaurant like Mango Chili to lend a helping hand. It’s currently trying to integrate its supply chain to include produce from poor communities and is testing a plot with SEMOA, an NGO that reaches out to Orang Asli residents.
The restaurant also hires up to 50 percent of its staff from poor communities. “We will mentor and train them to achieve a better standard of living,” Khoo promises.
Other eateries are pitching in with their own unique efforts. A collaboration born in July that’s called Meals For All comprises an informal collective spearheaded by Mexican restaurant Frontera in Petaling Jaya. It helps the urban poor through initiatives such as ‘suspended meals,’ through which concerned citizens can pay for food and drinks that will be channelled to others in need.
Meals For All essentially converts public donations into food. Pledges of RM7 per meal can be made through a Facebook page, and payments sent by bank transfer will be used to provide raw material for soup kitchens such the publicly respected Kechara Soup Kitchen.
Between July and September, Meals For All said it raised donations for more than 2,000 meals, which include balanced and nourishing portions of ingredients like vegetable rice, chicken curry, cookies, chocolate cake and fruits such as watermelon and bananas.
As more outlets respond to the call of their conscience, Mango Chili’s Khoo believes that restaurants should be sincere about supporting charitable causes and not use this as a ploy to boost business.
“I still think it boils down to the basics – the food must be good, the service must be good before anything else,” he stresses. “I don’t expect people to eat at Mango Chili and excuse poor food quality just because we are helping a good cause.”
For more information:
Mango Chili: www.facebook.com/mangochili.malaysia
Meals For All: www.facebook.com/MealsForAll