The Turkish restaurant offering free meals to the elderly and homeless on Christmas Day

Christmas can be a humbling time of year and one London restaurant’s staff have decided to give back to their local community by offering a free three course dinner to the elderly and homeless on Christmas Day, so that “no one eats alone”. Irfan Can Genc, a manager at Shish Restaurant in Sidcup, spoke to OpenTable about what led to the decision and how the staff are preparing for the big day.

No one should be alone, nor should they be alone on Christmas Day

“The whole story started when an old lady came in as we were shutting the restaurant,” Mr. Genc says. It was a cold night and the woman, who lived close by the restaurant, had come to ask staff to help her close a window in her house that she couldn’t reach. “Not even thinking about it, me and one of the waitresses went to her house. She said she was scared if she tried to get on a chair to close the window and scared that a burglar would come through it.”

To thank the staff for their help, the woman returned to the Turkish restaurant the next day to eat there. The staff sat and spoke with her and she told them that she was lonely and waiting for death. She said she was going to be alone on Christmas Day, a fact that Mr Genc said upset him and the rest of the staff. “No one should be alone, nor should they be alone on Christmas Day,” he said.

Spread the word

The managers spoke with the restaurant’s owner about offering free meals for the elderly and homeless on Christmas Day and were given the go-ahead with the idea. Mr Genc put a poster in the window of the restaurant to tell the community about their plans and shared it on social media, asking customers and friends to spread the word.

The news went viral and was covered by national newspaper sites, which resulted in the restaurant becoming inundated with messages of praise from all over the world, with many people offering to help out with the initiative. The staff will be joined by a number of volunteers on the day who have been in touch to help out in the kitchen and front of house.

The restaurant will be serving the free three-course meal between 12pm and 6pm, which includes a soup and Cacik as a starter, a choice of chicken casserole, vegetable casserole or a chicken shish as a main dish and rice pudding for dessert.

Giving back

“I assumed that there would be approximately 40 people attending,” Mr. Genc said, but now he’s looking forward to seeing a high number of homeless and elderly people coming to eat on Christmas Day. “Also, there is no public transport on that day, but we have had taxi drivers volunteering to transport any of these lovely people from their house to the restaurant and back again free of charge.”

And if the initiative proves a success then the restaurant’s managers are hoping to make it a regular occurrence. “We are thinking about making a foundation for the homeless and elderly,” he said, which could be created with the support of Shish’s other customers. “If our customers leave few pounds to contribute to us, we could sort a day where the homeless and elderly eat for free. We were thinking about doing it on Mondays, if it works out. I’m sure it will.”