In an email interview with Restaurant India, Promod Kumar, Head of Marketing and Operations at Zee5, Essel Group (which has restaurant brands like Edge Café and Loft) talks about how small restaurants are forced to shut down due to high fixed inflows, how delivery is a convenience, not experience and why he thinks content is going to play a bigger role in the F&B market.
With this outbreak, the restaurants and bars are forced to shut down their dining spaces and are coming up with their delivery options now. If the problem persists in India longer than expected then how is Loft planning to run its outlets?
In these times where precaution has become highly necessary, the least we can do is abide by the circulars sent out by local authorities. At the same, we are doing our best to focus on the delivery business in whichever market we have the permissions to do so. If this issue persists for longer than what is expected, the focus will have to be a move to delivery. Smaller players might even have close their stores due to high fixed costs flowing out without any inflows. We need to understand that a dine-in café or restaurant cannot depend just on the food delivery sales as both the models are totally different.
What marketing strategies restaurants are incorporating now for the customers working from home?
If we look at the brick and mortar space, not many brands are able to use delivery as an option to make money with this spike in (Work From Home) WFH, in most of the markets, the government has given a notice till the end of March to stay shut. In the case of cloud kitchen format, brands are pushing their products to the consumers. While this might look like a good opportunity to push delivery business, however, there is a strong apprehension in the customer’s mind even to order food from outside.
How according to you has WFH changed the Hospitality Industry's scenario?
It has impacted business severely. Restaurant spaces that are in and around business centers are at a total loss. As we all are looking at it as a short term measure to curtail the risk spread of the virus, the restaurant industry is prepared to take this hit as there is no escape. If it continues for a longer period then brands will have to re-look at their annual strategies to change plans. It will not just impact the business of existing stores but also the growth plans of new store openings and new product launches.
Since Edge has shut its operations and Loft is still in operations, what all precautions Loft is taking to ensure its customer’s safety?
As of now, all the Loft’s outlets are closed till 31st March. With the recent updates by the local authorities, we have been asked to keep the cafés shut as well. While Loft was open in the last week, we had taken several necessary measures to ensure the safety of customers and the staff at the same time. Temperature checks, sanitizers at all tables, deep cleaning of the cafes twice a day, and masks were provided to the staff.
There is a collaboration of tech with Loft where customers can stream original Zee content at the outlets, what do you think is the future of this industry with more and more restaurants are opting for delivery services today?
I still feel that going out to a restaurant or cafe is an experience, it is not just a functional need of having food or coffee. Food delivery is a game of convenience not experience. As restaurants and Cafés, we are in the business of selling experiences to customers along with good food. Content is going to play a big role in the F&B market, it already has in the past decade where stand-up gigs, workshops have become regular activities. Moreover, WFH as a concept gives people the flexibility to move anywhere, this is only supported for the food businesses as people would opt to work out of these spaces in the more and more.