Just when it seemed that the restaurant sector was recovering from the ordeal of the first two waves of the pandemic and was praying for some normalcy, the current wave has come as a rude shock for them. For an industry already burdened with massive losses of the last year, this has come as a body blow that many will not be able to withstand unless actively supported by all stakeholders. A large part of the industry managed to somehow survive the first two waves of lockdown and sailed through due to collective efforts of all stakeholders and similar efforts are once again required to prevent fresh rounds of business mortalities and job losses in the sector.
Restaurant body NRAI on Thursday sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention for uniform nforcement of COVID-19 protocols across all activities and making states permit. longer operating hours for the industry, saying it is now facing a "challenge of mere survival".
In a letter to the prime minister seeking immediate relief for the restaurant industry, NRAI also asked for suitable directions to be passed to states to consider hospitalisation data to determine the imposition of further restrictions and permit delivery of food from restaurants as part of essential services.
“The weekend lockdown will significantly impact the restaurant industry negatively, deliveries will surely go up for food-centric restaurants like us but as we have high fixed costs and have to share revenue with malls and pay commissions to aggregators we will suffer major losses,” shared Amit Bagga, Co-Founder, Daryaganj who is also expecting a relief from our real estate partners as they gave before.
While stating that healthcare of people and preventing spread of the virus should be the top priority of the government, NRAI said, “In doing so, however, the restaurant industry seems to have been singled out to be on the receiving end of the most stringent restrictions as compared to all other sectors/activities.”
Pointing out that most state governments are issuing orders by introducing curfews, local lockdowns and various restrictions on the industry, NRAI urged the prime minister to pass suitable directions to the states “to consider hospitalisation data to determine imposition of further restrictions.”
“Depending on the amount of precaution and safety measures a restaurant is taking in the pandemic the government should permit the industry to be operating at at least 50% capacity if nothing else,” pointed Pawan Shahri, Co-founder, Chrome Hospitality by adding that since the youth consists of the maximum population of our country which is also the working population, the government should push for the education of our youth so that everyone can be eligible enough to get a job and be able to fund for themselves and their family.
Further, the association asked the PM to consider enforcement of COVID protocols “uniformly across all activities”.
“In this regard, we would like to reiterate that the organised segment of the industry is committed to following all protocols/SOPs and will support the government in enforcing the same,” it added.
Commenting on the same Vishal Anand who owns one of the happening dining venture of the year Saga and is franchisee to brands like Farzi Café, PaPaYa believed, “It doesn’t work for us as an industry when each state and territory has their own rules though we are part of one city where Delhi-NCR is considered together but there is different rules that becomes difficult to operate. And, this is happening at Pan India level where Maharashtra, UP, Bengal, Haryana and Delhi to name a few have set their own guidelines and restrictions. So, I believe if there will be uniformity in terms of operational hours, capacity, it will make things much easier for us an industry to operate.”
Vishal is also the Gurgaon Chapter Head for NRAI that in its letter to Modi has asked for his attention by mentioning, “While we all sincerely hope for a quick normalisation of the situation, we would like to state that the food service industry, already battling through tough times for the past couple of years, is now facing a challenge of mere survival.”
“It will be easier for the population to follow a common enforcement and understand what the government wants us to follow instead of having various different rules. If maximum of the population is uniformly following a certain protocol the success of it will be much higher,” added Shahri by pointing that if you have built a good customer relationship at your outlets, people will feel a sense of familiarity and comfort and keep wanting to return to re live that experience which will end up contribution great numbers to the economy.
The industry body has also written individually to all prominent Mall Owners and an open letter to other Landlords suggesting certain immediate measures to prevent instant death of businesses, which leave behind a trail of unfulfilled dreams, job losses and lastly, massive unwanted litigation. Uncertainties around the virus and signs of low consumer sentiments are very visible and that doesn’t augur well for anyone, be it property owners or business operators.