Kolkata restaurant is about smile, swag, skill and success

In Kolkata its smiles, swag, skills & success

On a bar crawl in Kolkata on a November evening, I chanced upon Echoes, a restaurant offering multiple cuisines, playing pleasant music, a well-appointed bar, and with a graphic backdrop that relates the story of ancient Kolkata.

My bar visits were linked to an on-going bartending competition. As I entered, I noticed that the place was packed with guests, who were calmly having their food, and that the lounge music was a bit louder than normal.

What was missing was the noise that goes with rush hour in most restaurants – the clatter of china and cutlery, the hustle of busy staff racing between tables, waiters shouting out orders to the kitchen, and guests calling for attention.

A little later, I pointed this out to the pub’s chief mixologist, Arpan Nandi, whose answer somewhat threw me off kilter. Almost the entire crew at the restaurant comprises of physically challenged (deaf and mute) individuals!


So how do they run the whole operation? The menus have a code for every drink and dish, and every table has an order notebook with a pen. To place an order you just write the code of the drink and food item and fill in the quantity required.

Once done, you press a switch and the server will be at your table within seconds. The switches are also colour-coded to denote the table number and location!

What is more, if the chef goes “missing” from his/her station, the staff has been trained to make any dish from the menu – the food ingredients are pre-measured and kept in sets, to ensure consistency in the taste of food!!

Echoes started in December 2015 in Satya Niketan in New Delhi, empowering differently abled persons by employing them in guest service. In a span of 4 years the restaurant opened its branches in Ahmedabad, Bengaluru and Kolkata, the latter being the first outlet in the chain to include a bar.

Arpan gave me a well-balanced cocktail with a touch of Indian spices in a cool copper glass, which exactly matched the theme of the bar. The server at my table was quite confident in expressing himself in sign language. I did not see anyone complaining, or any kind of communication gap between the servers and their guests.

In-house training

The in-house training focuses on one thing: the staff should be able to handle any part of the operations in the restaurant, including the kitchen. Arpan is also in the process of training one person from the team to become a bartender – which can be quite a challenge for a differently-abled person.

The staff was really highly motivated; they had a swag in their movements and a shine in their eyes – a sign that they were happy doing what they were engaged in. At Arpan’s direction I discovered that Echoes is among the top-rated restaurants in Kolkata on Trip Advisor – and the reviewers were generous with their commendations.

The success of every restaurant lies in its products (food and beverages) and service (happy and efficient staff). I observed that the smiles on the servers’ faces were very natural.

Long after I took leave, I cannot forget Arpan’s words: “Smiling faces on both sides of the bar makes it a happy and happening bar.”