Amma canteen flops due to same old menu for months

  • | Monday | 22nd February, 2021

The Amma canteen at BRN Garden, North Chennai, run by Greater Chennai Corporation bears a deserted look and hasn’t had a single customer for a month now. The scene is similar across North Chennai where footfalls in around 100 Amma canteens have fallen.

The Amma canteen at BRN Garden, North Chennai, run by Greater Chennai Corporation bears a deserted look and hasn’t had a single customer for a month now. The scene is similar across North Chennai where footfalls in around 100 Amma canteens have fallen.

These canteens, which used to get 2,000 customers a day, do not get more than 100 now. Those working in the canteens said the government’s free food scheme during the pandemic has caused a huge dent in its revenue. “People thronged when hotels were closed and the food was free. Now, they are not willing to pay for the food. At many Amma canteens, people complain about lack of variety especially for breakfast and dinner,” said a staff.

There are about 407 Amma canteens in the city with each division having at least two. Most of them are located near slums, railway stations, inside government hospitals, and near Tasmac shops. “During the lockdown, people didn’t have money. Now, everyone is travelling and they have money. They prefer eating from a roadside eatery that serves a curry with its variety rice unlike the canteens that offer just pickles,” said an official.

R Usha, a resident of Kakka Thoppu said she doesn’t go the canteen as the menu is “boring”. “We can eat one or two meals a week. But we cannot eat the same idli and chapatti every day,” she said.

Out of the 407 canteens, about 200 get 1,000 customers a day. Around 100 of them have about 500-700 customers. The remaining have very few or no customers at all. The running cost of one canteen is around Rs 5,000-8,000 a day which includes staff payment, electricity bill, gas bill, vegetables, and groceries. “Each canteen has 8-12 staff each earning Rs 300 a day,” said an official. According to data, in 2020-2021, around Rs 83 crore was spent on Amma canteens by the corporation which included its bill for free food distribution.

“We are trying to implement the government order that has proposed to bring it under the Companies Act. We are working on the structure of the company and the functions of the directors, shareholders, and other officials. Once it is finalized, hopefully after the elections, the canteens will be run by a company. Then menu change, sponsorships, and donors to run it will be sought,” said an official.



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