Anurag Katriar, President, National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), says that while they welcome the idea of reopening businesses gradually, opening restaurants for dine-in services will “not make any commercial sense”. He says, “It does not make commercial sense for restaurants to start businesses with restrictions on serving liquor and time. Also, it will not be possible for many restaurants to start business with just one day to prepare for reopening. We have to keep in mind the social distancing and new hygiene norms and make preparations accordingly. What is needed right now to restart businesses is renegotiating terms with aggregators, landlords, mall owners, so that we work as equal partners and can devise a plan for the future.”
In the guidelines issued by the state government earlier this month, it was mentioned that restaurants can only open for takeaways and deliveries. Some restaurants have started running their kitchens with minimum staff for takeaway and delivery, but they say that opening restaurants for dine-in services will add to their operation cost and no revenue can be earned if they are not allowed to serve liquor. “There is no clarity between a bar and a restaurant in the guidelines issued so far. Restaurants are allowed to open as per the guidelines for Unlock 1, but bars are not. So our understanding is that if we will open our restaurants, we cannot serve liquor. 90% of our business is from the sale of liquor and there is no point in opening our restaurants, incur operational expenses when we can clearly see that there won’t be any revenue,” says restaurateur Umang Tewari, adding, “Reopening might be a good idea for QSR (quick service restaurant) chains that do not serve liquor, but not for others.”
Some restaurants have started running their kitchens with minimum staff for takeaway and delivery, but they say that opening restaurants for dine-in services will add to their operation cost and no revenue can be earned if they are not allowed to serve liquor (picture for representation purposes)
Restaurants can only open till 9pm, which means that they will have to take their last order at 7pm (if they open). “Who goes out for dinner at 6pm? 9pm deadline means that we have to take the last order at 7pm or even before that as our staff will also take time to clean the kitchen and sanitise the area for the next morning. Why would customers come to the restaurant early in the evening when they won’t even enjoy the experience because of this heat?,” says restaurateur Priyank Sukhija.
If they open, restaurant owners will also have to keep in mind that their staff needs to be home before 9pm. “Most of our staff would want to leave by 8pm. Since most of them commute by the metro, they will face difficulty commuting. Keeping all these factors in mind, it doesn’t make any sense in reopening,” says Varun Duggal, Head of Alliances, Massive Restaurants.
Due to the lockdown, staff working at most of these restaurants is still in their hometowns. “Almost 80% of my staff went back during the lockdown and it’s very difficult for them to come back right now,” adds Priyank.