While the uncertainty of Covid remains in how long the virus will affect the restaurant industry sales, one thing is for sure, restaurant operators do not take the crisis lying down. While restaurant sales were down as much as 50 percent or higher for some limited-service brands, many found an opportunity to flex their well-developed off-premises muscles as a way to stay afloat.
But now with outlets running back with houseful capacity, the major hurdle that comes across is how to manage the guests who are not following the appropriate Covid protocols.
Restaurants are doing their best to reduce the risk of exposure to coronavirus with protocols requesting face covers, social distancing, frequent hand washing, and cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting the facility. Unfortunately, some customers have become confrontational when it comes to following the protocols that apply to them, especially wearing face masks.
A very minute yet impactful behaviour has been noticed throughout; when a guest comes in and sit down, to eat or drink, one will obviously take the mask off. But the moment guests get up from the table to go to the restroom or to move around they do not put their masks on. The restaurants here would have to enforce a code of conduct for other guests as much as their employees.
An owner from Bangalore commented, “People who come to dine with us walk in with their masks but take them off the moment they are at their table and after that even when they are walking around the restaurant to wash their hands etc do not put their masks back on. This is a cause for worry but since we are a small establishment we are not in a position to enforce the rules.” The restaurant, however, has ensured they have associates positioned at all key counters reminding guests to wear their masks when they approach the buffet. They also have kept sanitisers across the restaurant for guest use.
It is a tricky situation but safety is a priority for Urvika Kanoi, owner and chef at The Daily. She further commented that at The Daily, they don’t let anyone enter if they aren’t wearing a mask even if they argue or fight. “Customers tend to get very rude and angry but we just have to sometimes they even leave - they are like are we going to eat with the mask on?” she commented.
A restaurant can legally deny service to individuals that refuse to wear a mask for alleged constitutional reasons. However, Dr Shruti Malik, Founder, Anardana Hospitality feels that a restaurant need not accommodate a guest if doing so would impede the business ability to safely provide its goods and services. Under current centres for disease control and prevention guidance, allowing unmarked members of the public into business establishments creates a health and safety risk.
“At Anardana we are doing our best to reduce the risk of exposure to coronavirus with protocols requesting face covers, social distancing, frequent hand washing, and cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting the facility. Unfortunately, some customers have become confrontational when it comes to following the protocols that apply to them, especially wearing face masks,” she commented.
The virus responsible for the disease has been mutating and the third wave of the pandemic could come any moment, the health department has said in an official statement recently. Making wearing of masks and use of sanitiser mandatory every time people go out of home, the department has advised people to keep adequate physical distance while visiting eateries during the festivities.
Suveett Kalra, Owner of Ardor 2.1 informed that till now, the restaurant has never witnessed stubborn guests who go against the safety rules of the restaurant or are adamant to not follow the safety norms. “But if we observe that there is a group of families or friends who are not willing to sanitize their hands, not wearing masks our guard only does not allow these people to enter or go upstairs,” he firmly said.
While Covid has subsided but restaurant owners also do feel and understand it's still important to make sure that the guests are socially conscious while eating out. The industry is already on its toes to make the diners feel comfortable and safe, but the responsibility is a both sided gameplay.