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Eat & Drink Restaurant in Al Safa, Dubai. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: True to his promise in life and death, Eat & Drink restaurants remained open to customers as directed by its late owner V.P. Abdulla Mahmood.

The UAE-based businessman and philanthropist died of cancer on Monday in his hometown in the south Indian state of Kerala. He was 62. Abdulla leaves behind his wife and three children.

Staff members said Abdulla told them not to turn away customers in the event of his death. (Some businesses close to mourn the death of an owner.)

‘He was like our father’

Mahmoud T.P.K, in-charge of Eat & Drink’s Al Qusais branch, said Abdulla “was not like a boss, rather like a colleague, teacher and father to all of us”.

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A chef at work at Eat & Drink Restaurant in Al Qusais. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

He added: “As you can see, all our branches are open. It was not his wish that we should close for his mourning. We miss him dearly; he was so friendly with all of us — from the staff responsible for cleaning to managers.”

Mahmoud said Abdulla was fond of visiting all the eatery’s branches and inquiring about the needs of the branch, its staff and even their families.

Caring man

“I was surprised at his sharp memory and care for staff. He would remember even things like the placement of small boxes in the branches and would follow up about developments in our family life,” Mahmoud said. “His main training to us was about how to always treat all customers well.”

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A chef at work at Eat & Drink Restaurant in Al Qusais. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Regular customer

Nimish Mohan, 29, a customer for the past four years, said he was saddened to hear the news of Abdulla’s passing.

“I had heard [Abdulla] had health issues. I just learnt he is no more. I’m fond of the food and service at Eat & Drink and have my lunch here always, sometimes dinner also,” Mohan said.

Gulf News visited a number of branches and found them operating as usual.

A senior company executive earlier told Gulf News that Abdulla had been undergoing treatment for cancer in the US and India for the past six months.

Nishanth Arippoovil, HR manager of the group, said Abdulla and his wife were back home in India. He was admitted in Aster MIMS Hospital after his condition worsened. He died at around 5pm on Monday.

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Customers at Eat & Drink Restaurant in Al Qusais. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

The couple has two daughters and a son, all of whom are UAE residents. All the family members flew to Kerala to attend the funeral on Tuesday, Arippoovil said.

Household name

Established in 1982, the Eat & Drink group emerged from humble beginnings to become a renowned name in the restaurant and catering industry in the UAE. The group currently has 40 branches and more than 1,000 employees.

Offering condolences for his death on social media, several people in the UAE remembered Abdulla as a man who supported the community in various ways, apart from the jobs that put food on the table for several families in the UAE.

Back home, Abdulla was the managing editor of Malayalam newspaper ‘News Kerala’. He was the chairman of CBSE school Sapphire Central School and managing director of other business establishments in Kerala.