Restaurateur offers 'suspended meals' as a means of paying back to society

KUCHING - A local restaurateur is offering "suspended meals" as a variation of the espresso sospeso (suspended coffee) in several western countries.

Gerald Goh, who runs the Absolute Tribal restaurant here, was inspired to start a suspended meals programme after reading a Facebook post about the suspended coffee tradition which started in Naples, Italy, and has spread to other countries.

The idea behind suspended coffee is simple: someone purchases a cup of coffee in advance for another person who cannot afford it. Needy persons such as the homeless can then be served a cup of coffee for free.

"I wanted to do something similar but not with coffee because it's not in our culture. It works in Europe, especially during winter when a hot cup of coffee will really be appreciated by the homeless," said Goh.

How it works at Absolute Tribal is fairly straightforward. A customer or any member of the public can purchase a suspended meal for RM10. (S$4)

A coupon will be issued for each purchase with a counterfoil to be kept by the restaurant.

For the sake of transparency, each coupon also has a serial number which will be recorded so that people can check how many have been purchased and whether they have been redeemed.

Once enough coupons have been purchased, Goh will contact the Welfare Department to gather the requisite number of needy or underprivileged persons and bring them to the restaurant for a meal.

The restaurant will top up RM5 per coupon to serve meals worth RM15 each.

Goh started the programme late last year and organised a meal redemption for 150 people from 12 charitable organisations in December. He currently has about 60 coupons and is targeting 100 people for the next redemption.

"It's about paying back to society and to show that although there may be a huge wealth gap in the city, there are still people who care," he said.

When he first introduced the programme, there was interest but also questions from people unfamiliar with the concept.

"Actually, a lot of people are ready to donate. There are a lot of warm-hearted people who want to contribute but don't know how, so this is a platform for them," he said.

Goh has received positive feedback about the programme, even from other countries.

"I have had people sending me ,50 from Germany and I received some donations from Singapore too. When I posted it on Facebook I was just thinking of the local community. I did not expect to get overseas response," he added.

At the end of the day, all this Malaysian wants is to help make a difference in the lives of the needy.