The only way to emerge from this is together, as a community. And the ones that will survive will become stronger, leaner and effective. Having said that, not everyone will be able to brace the impact of this pandemic. There are two major aspects, one is how we survive the lockdown and the other is how to bring back normalcy and be at par with what we were.
What we need to emerge : First and foremost, we need the government to acknowledge that the Food and Beverage industry that is roughly 60 billion dollars and employees around 7 million people or I may say 7 million families are directly impacted, is in trouble. The fraternity is worried and the sentiment is breaking down on an hourly basis. So, we need the government to act now and tell us that we will be taken care of. Surprisingly this hasn’t happened yet.
Liquidity is our major problem and a rebate or a waiver in statutory dues, compliances could be one of the things government can look into. Things like salary support, license fees, VAT, GST inputs, interest on tax, and electricity bills could all be looked into to improve liquidity by
We are a capex and manpower-intensive sector and we are closed and we will be the last ones to be open hence we will need the stimulus as we speak. Once we survive the onslaught, we will need policy changes that are pro-business and pro-tourism.
The real estate owners will need to pitch in for our survival. As I said it will be a joint effort and only then we will be able to overcome this. Overall corrections in rents and the percentage of rents will happen to ensure that we remain alive and sustainable. Pre-Covid rents have come to tune of 20 percent of the sale making the P&L lopsided and bottom lines miniscule. This will need to balance out to a health and survivable rate.
The Employees: We have always taken care of our employees and we will continue to do that, but like in any other sector a cut in the overall salary brackets is on the cards. The employees will have to work with the business owners.
The Aggregators : Collaboration and making a win-win for the business owner and the consumer will be the key, as one will only survive if the other does.
Consumer : The most important peg will be the consumer, and we need to work on measures to bring back the guest and the entire ecosystem will need to toil for this. No stimulus can save us if we can’t bring back to our establishments
The new safe: It will depend on establishment to establishment and format to format; however stringent par levels will need to be maintained across all formats.
From Guest management, floor control, safe distancing, medical checks of staff, deep cleaning every week, fumigation and sanitization drills all will come in play.
The establishment (infrastructure), the employee and the customer will all need to be screened and managed to ensure proper safety protocols.
The FSSAI will need to up their game not only in screening and certifying eateries but also training the food and beverage staff.
How will the industry change?
Dining in will become big across all segments of restaurants, people will order pizza from La Piazza and from Dominos. Restaurants will boast about hygiene rating and food safety procedures and how one fare on these parameters will be critical. I feel Coffee shops, casual dining restaurants will be the flag bearer for the resurgence as guests might take more time to be back to luxury restaurants, clubs and high-end bars.
Street food will also take a huge hit, the humble gol-gappa cart might be a thing of the past, as quality and hygiene will be a key tick mark for consumers. This also means that there will be an opportunity for street food to come into mainstream dining concepts.
Number of people coming in
Its uncertain times, and as an industry we might be the last sector to open post the lockdown. No matter how much optimism I may have, the sector is going to see a considerable percentage drop of customers. We will need to make the consumer comfortable with the idea of dining out post the Covid scare and would need to make it safe to the best of our ability.
The seating arrangements
It’s a given that a 100-cover restaurant will now be a max of 60 to 70 covers, ensuring, and practicing social distancing guidelines and protocols. Customers will not venture out to crowded places.
The dishes being cooked and ordered
We will see initiation of contact less dining, well not in the literal sense, you will still have a plate and you will have to eat, but various touchpoints will be eradicated, like being presented with a menu, being presented a bill, etc. This will all be done digitally.
We will also see smaller menus, many dishes that are suitable for delivery, automation in the kitchen, less manpower so on and so forth.
Post COVID we are looking at new rules of engagement and there won’t be a single mantra that will work. The consumer behaviour is the key, and two schools of thought are prevailing one suggesting that the consumer will become extremely conservative and the other suggesting that Covid has given a new meaning of life and people would want to make the most of what they have.
Food and eating out gives joy to people it creates memories for a lifetime. In today’s world our next conversation is our last meal so I am optimistic that if we are able to survive the onslaught, we will resurge stronger within a period of a year.
About the Author
With 18 years of experience, Tarun is a product specialist having core competence in food and beverage category, across production, operations, formats, food heritage and food and liquid culture. He has a strong experience and expertise in food and beverage business and strategic planning, he has worked The French Ministry of food and agriculture, The Irish food Board and The Meat and livestock Association of Australia. He has also spearheaded the Marketing and sales department at Fratelli wines and trained over 3000 people on wines.
At present, Tarun is the culinary director and co-founder at One Fine Meal and award-winning catering firm and has many restaurants under his wings - Cafe Staywoke, Street Storyss, Sidecar, The loft, Urban Deck, Ministry of Sound and his latest offering Titlie.