Food safety is going to be the para-norm to get customers back to the restaurant. Also, customer trust is one important thing that restaurant owners need today. It is not just the protocol that the government has given them but what is more important is as a restaurant owner, chef what is it that they are going to tell their customer, share with them that gives them the confidence to walk into the restaurant. And, as adversity has become the new normal for any restaurant brand today by adopting carry out or delivery as a model to follow out at their premises. Here is seasoned restaurant and chefs talking about their restaurants and practices they are planning to adopt.
Fine Dining may face a tough time
“There are no parallels between the two if you ask me. At that time, we knew the enemy, where they were and unfortunately this corona has been very invisible, unknown enemy. We don’t even know how it comes, where it comes. That time we were aware that these terrorists will come down; we will have to make sure and save the people. But in this situation we can only try our best to make sure that people are safe once we reopen the restaurant and ensure that guests have been given that kind of confidence, staff is given that confidence by saying look you are back,” shared acclaimed chef Hemant Oberoi recalling 26/11 terror attack where he rescued over 150 guests at the hotel. “I am sure it is going to take some time but I am very positive that it will bounce back between 6-12 months because we are all inter-linked,” he added.
There’s no denying that initially, people will be very hesitant coming out and dine especially at the fine dining places where they are spending so much time, every meal in the evening was 2-2.5 hours long. Probably, if they would come, they won’t go through a 5-course meal 0r 7-course meal they were going through and they would want to get out in an hour and so. Things will change from, hygiene, sanitation perspective and SOPs will have to be different for restaurant owners.
“It is going to change especially for the fine dining where almost 70 per cent of the produce was imported and going to be a difficult scenario. We don’t even know when imported goods will arrive and whatever was in stock we might not use it because it is already more than three months now. The menu will change according to the ingredients available,” added Chef Oberoi who is running fine dining restaurant Hemant Oberoi in BKC, one of Mumbai’s prominent location.
How Casual dining is making most of it?
Restaurants have to start fresh as there is another era altogether now. When the rest of India is slowly opening, they are going to put their foot in the market where everyone is very uncertain including the restaurant owners and guests. Are they going to go? How often are they going to go? Are they going to go immediately? You don’t know what the market is like.
Casual dining is also facing the heat. With new regulations where restaurants are advised to maintain at least 6 feet distance, it will be highly impractical for them to run the business. “In Mumbai, restaurants are not that too large especially casual dining so it is very impractical to expect that there will be exact 6 feet distance between the tables. Also, 6 feet distance will leave us to not even half of the tables to start with,” shared Syesha Kapoor, Associate Director, Silver Beach Entertainment & Hospitality.“Restaurants may be able to explore parallel business. All in all we really have to work on cost. We have to work with staff as a lot of staff has gone back and maybe we can divide our team and do multi-task between our staff. Rents have to be re-negotiated, we need to work on a new model altogether. It can’t be location based now. It is now what is practically possible to pay if we are running with 50% occupancy,” she further pointed.
QSR is winning the game
Everyone believes that to continue further and bring restaurant business on track, they need to work on certain guidelines; including limited and fixed menu, automation and processes and employee and staff training. “As a quick service restaurant we work on a limited menu. The simple fact that you have limited menu allows you to build much better productivity in your team,” said Seema Arora Nambiar, Sr. Vice President – Menu, Marketing and People Resources, McDonald’s- South & West India whose restaurants were open for delivery during the lockdown. “We have opened few restaurants in Gujarat and Bangalore for dine-in. Customers are little edgy about coming in and coming in contact with employee. Simultaneously, employees are also uncomfortable about that,” she pointed by adding that migrant labours contribute to around 30 per cent of their workforce.
“The first thing we will do is how we will change the processes. In the backend we will have to make changes in terms of automation which is an investment from owners and operators of restaurants. Also, training in terms of people where people come from socio-economically sector will become third important aspect,” concluded Nambiar.