Annalakshmi is a chain of vegetarian restaurants which let its customers ‘Eat to one heart’s content, Pay what one’s heart feels’. The first restaurant was opened in Malaysia’s biggest city, Kuala Lampur. It was founded by Hindu monk, Swami Shantanand Sarawathi. The chain of restaurants arose as part of the non-for profit organization Kalamandir (commonly called the Temple of Fine Arts: TFA ), whose objective is doing art, just for the love of it. Annalakshmi is also associated with Shiva Shanta Health Care Services.
The mission of Annalakshmi is, above all, serving humanity with the culinary and performing arts but with something clear in mind: being able to help the underprivileged in India and other developing countries via The Temple of Service by providing medical services and free food. Its mission can be summarized in ‘bring the joy of Art, Culture and Humanitarian services to one and all’. Its underlying values are solidarity and a full trust in humanity. The initiative was so successful that nowadays Annalakshmi restaurants are opened in Australia, India and Singapore and the Los Angeles Annalakshmi is opening soon. And its activity has been diversified up to `fast food delis’. The overall profits of Annalakshmi chain increase at a rate of 25% per year.
There are certain practices that allow the firm to be cost-efficient: the restaurants are located in the suburbs, which are cheaper than prime locations; the staff is composed of housewives or people who have embraced the concept of service to others, and not by chefs; there are no marketing expenses since word of mouth is viewed as the best form of promotion, etc. Moreover, the `dream´ of this business realized because it has lots of faithful customers whose values are in line with those of the company and who are willing to pay 30-40% more for a meal at Annalakshmi than they would have paid anywhere else. Therefore, in terms of Annalakshmi customers’ values and loyalty the key factors for success. Many people have benefited from Annalakshmi’s business. A direct beneficiary is the TFA since all of the Annalakshmi earnings are used to finance the charity activities it carries out.
Funds obtained through Annalakshmi are used to support centers that treat patients free of charge, promote indigenous art and culture by sponsoring talents, pay for education for the children of Annalakshmi’s volunteers, etc. First of all, the approach of ‘eat what you like, pay as you feel’ might one day fail to be profitable, though up until now it did not show a sign of inefficiency.
Another challenge for Annalakshmi chain could be, as it grows larger and, especially, expands into countries whose cultures and values defer from those in Asia (like an opening of a new restaurant in US) its operations might deviate form the initial goals.