Mumbai: Mirchi and Mime is a local restaurant located in Powai Lake, near the Hiranandani Gardens, Mumbai. Its staff chiefly consists of people with hearing and speech disability.
Mirchi & Mime opened its doors last year, it was to rave reviews. Run entirely by hearing- and speech-impaired waitstaff, every meal there was a culinary delight and a lesson in empathy.
Restaurants try to establish themselves as different by having unique concepts. One of the defining concepts behind Mirchi & Mime is that a majority of the servers are hearing and speech impaired. Most of the activities are undertaken by the staff who communicate with the patrons through sign language, images of whose variations accompany every item in the food menu.
Mirchi and Mime was founded by Henley School of Business graduates, Prashant Issar and Anuj Shah. Drawing inspiration from “Signs”, a Toronto-based bistro which functions on a concept of hiring differently-abled people, Issar and Shah set up the restaurant in March 2015.
Before opening the restaurant, Shah and Issar first studied sign language and recruited staff from the Rochiram T Thadani High School for Hearing Handicapped. They spoke with not just prospective employees, but with their families as well, explaining that the job would provide lasting, viable means of employment.
Mirchi and Mime only employs people who are hearing- and speech-impaired. Diners are requested to place their orders by mimicking hand-gestures associated with a particular food item. Items in the food menu are accompanied with photos of these hand gestures.
After a 15-20 minute wait, dishes start making an appearance on the table, accompanied by tiny signboards indicating what each dish is, and the rest is as simple as sitting down to a meal at any other ‘regular’ restaurant.
The guests are also taught ‘excuse me’, ’yes’, ‘no’, ‘great’, ‘okay,’ ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ in sign language, so that they can have a less matter-of-fact, more pleasant conversations with the servers.
The food menu matrix, which lists all food items in a single page along with the images, was designed by India’s National Institute of Design. The staff were trained by Dr Reddy’s Foundation.