Muslim owned restaurants in Bengaluru have chefs brainwashed by Markaz attendees and are spreading Coronavirus by spitting in the food.
The WhatsApp message states that the Muslim owners of restaurants like Empire, Imperial, Paramount, Beijing Bites, Hyderabadi Biryani House, Bawarchi Biryani hire Muslim cooks who are brainwashed by those who attended the religious congregation at Markaz Nizamuddin in Delhi. These Muslim cooks spit in the food, so everyone gets infected with COVID-19. The WhatsApp forward after targeting the restaurants, its Muslim owners and cooks, further targets delivery agents for delivery apps like Swiggy and Dunzo, etc and appeals to stop ordering from the aforementioned restaurants and delivery apps.
Here’s what the WhatsApp forward exactly reads, “Many Muslims who own restaurants like Empire, Imperial, Paramount, Beijing bites, Hyderabadi Biryani House, Bawarchi Biryani, etc employ Muslim cooks who are brainwashed by ppl who attended d Tablighi congregation in Delhi. They spit in d food that v order to infect us with covid19. A lot of them also work for online food delivery agencies like Swiggy, dunzo, etc. pls stop ordering food from d above-mentioned restaurants & online delivery from any restaurants at least for another couple of months.”
A WhatsApp forward is doing the rounds in groups and in personal inboxes that calls for a boycott of certain restaurants owned by people belonging to the Muslim community.
So, from the verification perspective, there are two different claims in the WhatsApp forward.
- Muslim Cooks in said restaurants spit in food, so people belonging to the Hindu community get infected with COVID-19.
- Delivery agents/valets working for apps like Swiggy and Dunzo spit in food/other stuff they deliver with the same motive, as stated in the first claim.
Fact Check: First Claim
The first claim in WhatsApp forward as mentioned above is just an assertion and not based on facts, in fact, when we searched Google for the number of coronavirus cases caused by restaurant food, we didn’t find any mention of any such incident. Besides this, as per the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Tourism, a restaurant has to fulfill certain criteria to be accredited, some of the important guidelines are listed below.
Certificates/ No Objection Certificates required for accreditation:
- Certificate/ License from Municipality/Corporation to show that your establishment is registered as a Restaurant.
- Certificate/License from concerned Police Department authorizing the running of a Restaurant.
- Clearance Certificate from Municipal Health Officer/Sanitary Inspector giving clearance to your establishment from a sanitary/hygienic point of view.
- Segregation of areas for smoking, non-smoking under the rules.
Apart from some of the NOCs mentioned above, while filling the form for accreditation, restaurants have to answer certain questions. Some of these questions are listed below.
a. Whether or not the restaurant is properly ‘Decored’?
b. Whether or not the ‘Servicing’ of the restaurant is as per the rules and regulations?
c. Whether or not the restaurant provides ‘Crockery’ i.e Good quality crockery, cutlery, glassware, silverware, tableware, and linen?
d. Kitchen and Washing (Clean, hygienic, well equipped and well-maintained kitchen and pantry with proper and adequate cold storage facilities. Cooking utensils should also be of good quality and well kept. Do you have cold storage? If not what arrangements are made for storing perishable items of food?
- Whether or not Hygiene, washing, drying, winning of cooking utensils are taken care of? Whether or not proper Crockery, Cutlery & Glassware available? In case of manually operated washing system – 3 tier system should be applied.
e. 1) Is there a dishwashing machine in your Restaurant? If so, what is its capacity?
2) If the dishwashing machine is not being used what method is being used to wash crockery, cutlery & glassware?
3) What steps are taken to keep the place safe from all types of 15 pests?
4) What are the arrangements for day & wet garbage disposal?
f. Whether or not your Staff meets these requirements?
The supervisory staff coming in contact with Guests should be able to understand and speak English. Some staff should be available to explain the items on the menu to the customers. Explanatory notes in English should be given in the menu cards, in case, languages other than English are used.
- List of Managerial and Supervisory Staff showing their professional qualifications, training and experience. This information will be provided separately for each person in the enclosed sheet.
- What percentage of other staff i.e. Chef, Cooks, Waiters, Barman & Telephone Operators, etc have been trained in recognized Craft Institute? This information should be given on a separate sheet. NB 30% of the staff should be trained with a minimum of a one-year training course.
g. Whether or not toilets in the restaurant have modern sanitary fittings with an adequate supply of soap, clean towels, toilet papers and running clean and hot water?
From some of the excerpts from the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Tourism, we found that there is a list of boxes that need to be ticked before finally getting approval for running a restaurant. Notably, these items include hygiene, cleaning, good servicing, etc as the primary condition for the soundness of an approval.
As we began to fact-check this claim, we first collected the basic information about the restaurants that are being questioned in the viral forward. Here’s what we found:
Empire Group of Restaurants
Established by Mr. Abdul Rahim Haji in 1966, the Empire Group of Restaurants runs a chain of restaurants in the Indian city Bengaluru. We contacted Shaqir Haq, who is the Managing Partner at Empire Hotels, and he expressed his concern towards the rumor doing the rounds. Haq says, “The rumors that question the ethical foundation of the group are untrue and alarming. These comments come from a viral video of a food service personnel blowing into a plastic bag to open it out and a restaurant carrying a board that reads FOOD PANDA. It’s important to note that said organization is not any of our branches. This is a two-year-old video, and this organization does not exist anymore.”
Here’s what Mr. Haq has to say on the issue:
“Greetings from EMPIRE GROUP OF RESTAURANTS!! We hope that everyone is staying safe inside your homes & we pray that this challenging time sees the end soon enough for all of us to spring back into normalcy. Today we write to you after hearing an alarming and untrue rumor that questions the ethical foundation of iconic businesses in Bangalore based on religion. Please do not believe the rumors that falsely accuse our Restaurants of violating the health code by spitting in food. These comments come from a viral video of a food service personnel blowing into a plastic bag to open it out and a restaurant carrying a board that reads “FOOD PANDA”. It’s important to note that said organization, not any of our branches. This is a two-year-old video, and this organization does not exist anymore.
At Empire group of Restaurants, as you know, we cater to patrons of all age groups, varied religious and financial backgrounds with just a straightforward premise- GOOD FOOD & GREAT SERVICE. A lot of time and energy is directed towards making you and your family’s experience safe and enjoyable. Our kitchens have a strict Hygiene audit and practices that are ensured to maintain safety standards during regular times. Currently, we are providing WHO mandates in maintaining a functional kitchen for our valued customers & patrons.
There is an ethical code amongst all our kitchens that will not be broken under any circumstance. Our people i.e Customers, Employees, and vendors, irrespective of where they hail from, are OUR TOP PRIORITY.
Let us pledge to not contribute to rumors that bring about feelings of disdain and hate but instead come together as a community that believes in valuing humanitarian principles. We thank you for your continued support and wish you good health & happiness.”
Beijing Bites Restaurant
Established about 15 years ago, the restaurant has multiple outlets in Karnataka’s Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Andhra Pradesh’s Vijayawada. When we contacted the Mohammed Ibrahim Akram, Director, Beijing Bites, he informed us that the outlet is owned by both Hindus and Muslims and it employs people from both the communities. Akram also informed us that less than 1% of the total employees currently working at restaurants belong to the Muslim community. He says we take immense pride in catering to the dining needs of all people irrespective of religion, caste, gender, background, etc. adding a huge majority of restaurant’s patrons are Non-Muslims. He further adds, “Beijing Bites does not claim to speak on behalf of all other business establishments targeted in the hateful WhatsApp message, but we are sure none of our competitors too would follow any practices or conduct any activity that would be inimical to our excellent and enduring relationship with our non-Muslim brothers and sisters or our business.”
Here’s what Mohammed Ibrahim Akram exactly said:
“This message is in response to a highly malicious and communal campaign on WhatsApp being circulated by certain people against some Muslim-owned restaurants and the community in general.
The message makes very outrageous remarks in the background of the coronavirus endemic and exhorts non-Muslims to boycott Muslim-owned business establishments in general and restaurants in particular. On behalf of one of the restaurants being so targeted – Beijing Bites – we wish to declare the following:Beijing Bites is owned by both Hindus and Muslims and employs people from both communities as Directors. Among other employees, less than 1% belong to the Muslim faith. To the particularly disturbing message that food ordered by non-Muslim patrons is deliberately tampered with, we wish to put on record that not a single cook in any BB establishment is a Muslim.
A huge majority of our patrons are non-Muslims, and it gives us immense pride to cater to the dining needs of all people irrespective of religion, caste, gender, background, etc.
We take special care of the hygiene standards across all our 20+ outlets in Bangalore. We follow stringent quality control per government-mandated regulations in the procurement of raw materials, our dining services, and especially our kitchen areas. We especially follow a strict code of hygiene standards in our delivery services.
During times of any crises that our great nation or the state of Karnataka faces from time to time, Beijing Bites has been the first to provide all help to the needy. During the current coronavirus crisis, we have been at the forefront in supplying thousands of free food packets each day to people from health services, security, and especially the poor and needy.
Beijing Bites does not claim to speak on behalf of all other business establishments targeted in the hateful WhatsApp message, but we are sure none of our competitors too would follow any practices or conduct any activity that would be inimical to our excellent and enduring relationship with our non-Muslim brothers and sisters or our business. We urge every one of our countrymen and women to treat such anti-national messages with the contempt they deserve and continue to give us the opportunity to serve you better in the future.”
Here’s how these restaurants cook, serve and pack
As stated above, when we spoke to the restaurants mentioned in the claim, we asked for details on the methodology used by the restaurants to cook, serve and pack and demanded video proofs to understand it in detail.
Video and Photos sent to us by Beijing Bites:
More such videos and photos can be viewed here.
After hearing the restaurant’s version, we further searched for more evidence as no restaurant will ever call their services bad or even below the standards. In our quest, we searched for reviews written by independent customers or rather the general public who have visited the restaurant and based their experience, written a review.
When we read the reviews about Beijing Bites’ Richmond Road situated outlet on Zomato, we found that out of 17 reviews on Zomato that carries the mention of the word ‘Staff’, only 3 were negative, out of which 2 states that the staffs are not well-mannered and one review states that there was no staff when the reviewer reached the outlet. Notably, out of the 17 reviews about the staff serving at the restaurant, two reviews which have expressed unhappiness with the restaurant’s food, have admired the staff stating the staff was very courteous and well mannered. The reviews about the restaurant can be read here. None of the reviews question the hygiene or method of cooking.
Similarly when we read the reviews about Empire Restaurant at Zomato, out of hundreds of reviews carrying the mention of the word ‘staff’ only a few (less than 5-10%) were negative reviews. The reviews about the particular outlet can be read here.
Here’s what we found
Based on the testimony of concerned restaurant’s directors and reviews written by general visitors at these outlets, we can conclude that the WhatsApp forward claiming that the staff at these restaurants spit on food, is false and is a part of vicious propaganda that has erupted in the aftermath of Nizamuddin Markaz controversy.
Fact Check: Second Claim
The second claim in the WhatsApp forward reads that a lot of the delivery boys who work for Swiggy and Dunzo also belong to the same category of brainwashed Muslims mentioned in the first claim. While both the delivery apps encourage their customers not to accept the order if the seal is broken hence the probability of the delivery guy spitting on the food or tampering with the seal is almost zero since if seal gets broken the customer will not receive the order, as advised by the app from which the order was placed. Hence we found that the claim is baseless.
We also found a reply to the tweet made by a user who wanted to know about the safety of the food he is being delivered and Swiggy made it clear that they follow a zero-tolerance policy towards food tampering. The same can be viewed below.
We also found a report published by Indian Express that lists the precautions food delivery apps are taking while delivering the food amid coronavirus outbreak in India.
As more and more people are staying at home and quarantining themselves, the door-to-door delivery startups are all facing both new opportunities and challenges.
Additionally, Swiggy has made it crystal clear in their refund policy that if an order’s packaging is damaged or tampered at the time of delivery then the customer is entitled to a refund. The same can be viewed here.
Similarly, Dunzo also follows the same refund policy as of Swiggy i.e ‘If order packaging is damaged or tampered at the time of delivery then the customer is entitled to a refund.’ The same can be viewed here.
Hence it is proved from our fact-check that the second claim of the viral WhatsApp forward is also ‘Fake’ and delivery boys/ valets of food delivery apps do not spit on the food.
Fact Check: Third Claim
During our investigation of the two claims mentioned at the beginning of the report, we found that a video is doing the rounds on social media with a similar claim as stated above. The viral post can be viewed below.
The intensity of this claim can be seen here.
As we began investigating the viral post, we first fragmented the video in order to know more about the same. We found a report which contains the stills of the viral video and was published on May 1, 2019.
Do you like your papadum crispy and crunchy? We bet you do. But make sure you know how your local mamak store prepares it because the way this store prepares it will make you feel disgusted. A video has been widely circulating on Facebook which saw a mamak staff’s unhygienic practice.
The article also informs the staff of a Malaysian outlet that prepares Mamak blows air saliva into papadum bags. It also informs that the video had gone viral in Malaysia last year and that the details of the video can not be independently verified by the website.
Newschecker has done a detailed verification of the viral video in Urdu. The same can be read here. However, it is imperative from the finding above and from our Urdu fact-check report that the video is old and has nothing to do with the ongoing Nizamuddin Markaz controversy or Indian Muslim restaurant staff. Hence the claim is ‘Misleading’.
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