The reason will melt your heart, and the restaurant owner has the best of intentions: “it’s not going to make us poorer, it’s only going to make us feel richer”…

Who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch? It certainly wasn’t Vivek Balaney, the owner of Nom Nom Asia Restaurant in Dubai. 

The restaurant, which has outlets in Barsha and Karama, has a sign on the door which offers a free meal to anyone who is unemployed and looking for a job.

“Don’t think of it as charity,” the sign says. “You can come back to pay us when you can – anytime.”

We popped down to check it out…

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While it might sound like the perfect act of kindness for the “Year of Giving”, Balaney has been offering free lunches to jobseekers since the restaurant opened two years ago.

At that time, they were inundated with people looking for employment, he said.

We had our hands full, we had a team full, we couldn’t hire them. So we said, ‘we don’t have anybody to try our food, why don’t you try our food and have a meal?’ The idea came from that point on.”


Jobseekers are served a combo lunch worth around Dhs30, which consists of a portion of rice or noodles, a choice of protein, and a bottle of water.

They can then use the money they saved on lunch to go towards the cost of transport to job interviews, or other utilities.

The gesture went more or less unnoticed until very recently, when Dubai-based food consultant Labiba Laith shared a photo of the sign on social media, saying it brought tears to her eyes.

Since then, the number of jobseekers taking up the offer had jumped from around 60 in the past two years, to 130 in the past couple of weeks, Balaney said.

But he was not worried that some people might be taking advantage of his kindness. “No one really cheats you for a meal,” he said.


“You’ve got to believe in the goodness of people, especially people who are looking for jobs and cannot afford a meal. How much can they take away from you?

“It’s not going to make us poorer, it’s only going to make us feel richer.”


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Video Editing: Surajit Dutta. Photos & video: Kristina Nabieva.