A Canadian eatery is offering free meals to the hungry while also setting an example for how a gesture of generosity can make a difference. Marché Ferdous, a small Middle Eastern restaurant in downtown Montreal, implemented a new policy — those without money can dine for free — five months ago, reports CBC News.
Restaurant co-owner Yahye Hashemi came up with the idea after he noticed how frequently people came in asking for spare change. While he initially gave people money to use at the restaurant, he realized it would be easier to serve free meals. Now, a sign written in both English and French is pasted outside his restaurant reading: "People with no money welcome to eat for free."
"We do not ask any questions; we do not judge people," Hashemi, who co-owns the joint with Ala Amiry, tells Global News. "They want to eat, [we] give them the food. That's it, that's all."
The Iranian-born businessman estimates his restaurant feeds four to five people a day. As far as finances are concerned, Hashemi says he considers it a business expense. "We don't think about how much it will cost us," he tells CBC News, adding that it is in his faith to help people and that he wants to give back to the country that has given him so much.
News of the restaurant's policy made headlines after a customer tested out the sign's claims. After successfully receiving a free meal, Sean Jalbert took to Facebook to share his experience. "Curious enough I walked in and pretend I had no money and asked for food," writes Jalbert. "She didn't ask anything, but said we welcome you and pick whatever you like, including anything I wanted to drink. Made me smile and warm inside I paid for my food and told them they were awesome for doing this."
Hashemi's generosity has proved to be contagious, as diners at the establishment have started donating money to feed the less fortunate. "They come here, they donate $20, $30, $50 and they say, 'OK, the next few people are on me,'" Hashemi says.
Despite inspiring their customers with their goodwill, the restaurant's chef, Abdelkader Bejaoui, maintains what they're doing is "not a big deal." Bejaoui told CTV News: "It doesn't matter, because at night if you still have leftover food you end up throwing it out, so why not give to those in need? It's not a big deal."
The good-faith free-meals policy will remain at Marché Ferdous indefinitely and the team hopes to inspire other Montreal restaurants to follow suit.
Read more: Montreal Restaurant Serves up Free Meals to the Hungry from CBC News