Menu expansion a welcome move, say patrons; officials say new dishes may be in by month-end

In summer, it is normal for curd to sour as the mercury rises. But at Chennai Corporation's 200 budget restaurants, the curd rice, at Rs. 3 per plate, continues to melt in the mouth.

The self-help groups (SHGs) running these restaurants buy fresh curd every morning from local Aavin milk parlours to ensure that customers are not left with a tangy aftertaste. And as the popularity of these eateries soars, they are set to get a more varied menu.

On Wednesday, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa announced in the Assembly that more dishes would be brought in, and an evening menu too, would be introduced.

Corporation officials said everything was already in place to start the supply of dishes including pongal and various kinds of rice, in about 10 days.

But the decision on when to start serving these new dishes is yet to be taken. Chapathis however, will make an appearance on September 1, an official said.

He added that the introduction of these new items is expected to reduce the consumption of idlis (at Re. 1 each) at the canteens.

Munuswamy, a watchman who works on Habibullah Road, and had come in for lunch to the Amma Unavagam in T. Nagar, said the portions served were generous.

“One portion of sambar rice and one of curd rice makes for a good meal, at Rs. 8,” he said, adding that he was happy with the decision to add items to the menu.

But not everyone is satisfied with the service.

An autorickshaw driver from Abhiramapuram complained that the SHG members did not wash their hands before serving food. He also said the women hurled abuses at each other in front of customers.

His complaint has been forwarded to the Corporation Commissioner.

The job of the SHG members includes preparing and serving food, and cleaning up before and after breakfast and lunch.

Lalitha, a resident of Teynampet, said she worked at the T. Nagar restaurant from 4 a.m. to 5 p.m. for a salary of Rs. 300 a day.

Around 2,500 idlis (at Re. 1 per idli), and 1,000 plates each of sambar and curd rice are sold daily at the eateries. About 450 customers are served every morning, officials said.

At present, the Corporation’s sanitary inspectors supervise the maintenance of the restaurants. They also ensure that garbage is picked up, and the surrounding areas cleaned.

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