Bridging the Opportunity Divide

Meet the Restauranteur Who Pays Her Employees a True Living Wage

January 13, 2015
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Meet the Restauranteur Who Pays Her Employees a True Living Wage
Upohar is a unique restaurant concept employing refugees to cook the cuisine of their native country. Facebook/Upohar
This eatery serves a side of compassion.

Now this is a true example of thinking globally and acting locally.

A recent broadcast from NPR’s “All Things Considered” tells the story of Srirupa Dasgupta, a woman who came to America in the 1980s from India, built a thriving career in the tech industry and then left it all behind for something very different.

In 2010, inspired to give back to Lancaster, Penn.’s large refugee community, she started a catering service called Upohar to help her neighbors find work and get ahead. In April, she expanded Upohar into a restaurant. Dasgupta hired workers from from Bhutan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, paying them twice the state’s minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

MORE: The Restaurant That Serves a Second Chance to Kids Who Need It Most

In the video below, Dasgupta explains how the name for the restaurant (which means “gift” in Bengali) came about. “I conceived it as a gift for the employees, as they get an opportunity to work, do something they enjoy, and earn living wages,” she says. “[It’s] a gift to the community…all this unusual food from different parts of the world that’s not available anywhere else but here.” (The eatery’s rotating buffet features vegan and vegetarian food from South Asia, Middle East, North and Central Africa, the restaurant says.)

She adds, quite poignantly, “It also has turned out to be a gift to myself.” Dasgupta’s employees — people who have had to rebuild their lives from scratch and leave loved ones behind — have helped her gain a different perspective on life. As Dasgupta says, when she compares her problems to her employees’, “suddenly your problems just don’t seem that big anymore.”

If only all restaurant owners could be like this.

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