Amma canteens may force tech cafe logout

The 200-odd operational in the city were originally aimed at feeding daily-wage earners and migrant workers at affordable costs.

CHENNAI: The low-cost Amma Canteens may have caught the imagination of even Egyptian officials who came visiting recently to study the model, but a group of entrepreneurs in Chennai is definitely not cheering for them.

Cafeteria owners in offices of Chennai's IT corridor are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet as their clientele are switching in large numbers to eating at these heavily subsidised outlets run by J Jayalalithaa's AIADMK regime.

Around 11 canteens in Velachery, Ambattur Industrial Estate and the OMR stretch in Chennai have shut shop and many more are expected to follow suit soon. A few have scaled down their businesses and cut down on the number of items they sell. Named after Jayalalithaa's popular title, Amma (Tamil for mother, these canteens are a big hit.

The 200-odd operational in the city were originally aimed at feeding daily-wage earners and migrant workers at affordable costs, but the extremely attractive prices and quality food served have got even the techies asking for more.

"I had to pay 27 for a plate of idli at the canteen inside my building. But now I'm getting the same for 1. The place is also kept clean. The only drawback is that my office gives me Sodexo vouchers which I can exchange at my canteen whereas I can't use it at Amma Canteens," said R Venkatesh (name changed) who works in a BPO at Velachery.
Roadside Eateries Not Spared Either

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One of the canteen owners in an IT company who wound up his business recently, on condition of anonymity, said: "Technically it was not feasible for me. I would not be able to cut down on costs as my rentals are already too high. There were seven canteens within the complex and I already had competition from them. After Amma canteen came up many employees moved there as the food price was reasonable and the quality of food was also good."

The shifting loyalties have not spared the road-side eateries either, which are now operational only late in the night as the Amma Canteens are open only until evening. Running canteens in private firms is not easy. In some cases, there are up to five-10 such canteens in a single complex and rentals for them range from 2-4 lakh a month.
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