A Turkish restaurant in southeast London has received extensive media coverage after offering local elderly and homeless people a free meal on Christmas Day.
Three weeks ago, staff at Shish restaurant in Sidcup placed an ad in their shop front window stating “No one eats alone on a Christmas Day! We are here to sit with you”.
The elderly and homeless were offered a free 3-course meal of soup and cacık (yoghurt dip), a main meal of chicken or vegetarian casserole, or chicken shish kebab, and sütlaç (Turkish rice pudding) for dessert.
The staff also posted these details on social media and asked neighbours and customers to help spread the word. The response has been phenomenal, with the offer going worldwide and reporters from national and international media descending on Sidcup to learn more about those behind this festive act of kindness.
Among those to cover the story are the BBC, The Independent, Metro, CNN, India Times, Hürriyet, and Australian Women’s Weekly. Several, including The Telegraph and Huffington Post, homed in on the fact the restaurant owners, Tacettin Genç and his business partner Serdar Kiğılı, are Muslim.
‘No one eats alone’: Muslim-owned restaurant offers free Christmas meal for homeless, elderly’, wrote the Washington Post.
Tacettin Genç’s 20-year-old son and restaurant co-manager İrfan Can told the BBC his Muslim faith has taught him to help others where he can, but also highlighted the common humanity of people:
“I’m Muslim myself, but no matter what religion, culture or language you speak, believe in, come from, we are all human beings at the end of the day.”
He added, “It’s not about the business, it’s about making everyone happy, because we all smile at the same stuff, cry for the same stuff”
İrfan explained the idea came after an elderly neighbour asked for their help to close a window in her flat one evening.
He said: “She came in to the restaurant to thank us for helping her to close her window the day before and she started telling my colleague how she was very lonely and would be all alone on Christmas day.”
“That’s when we started thinking if she is lonely there must be others who also don’t have anywhere to go on Christmas day. We thought – we can help with that!”
Their generous offer has been warmly received with many people around the world sending their support and good wishes on social media. One lady called Sarah tweeted the restaurant to say: “Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! This is absolutely amazing of you. You have restored my faith in humanity”
@shishsidcup Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! This is absolutely amazing of you. You have restored my faith in humanity……🙏🏼❤️️
— Sarah (@LKM820) November 18, 2016
Shish had planned for about 40 to 50 people to take up the free Christmas meal offer, but believe the turnout will be far higher following the huge publicity they’ve had. However, the restaurant has also been inundated with people offering to help on the day.
“We’ve had taxi drivers calling up to say they will bring people to and from the restaurant for free and lots of people volunteering to help on the day,” said İrfan.
The Turkish restaurant, which first opened in 1993, has said people are welcome to stop by from midday to 6pm on Christmas Day. For more details, visit their website.