Maharashtra restaurant owners fear the current lockdown could be the final nail in the coffin for their business
- As Maharashtra remains the worst affected state in India hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with positive case numbers worse than the year before, the state now has a partial lockdown once again.
- As shutters come down on restaurants, the owners are looking at a fate that they had never imagined.
- Restaurant owners urge the government to find alternatives and support the restaurant industry or it could be the end for many.
AdvertisementAs Maharashtra remains the worst affected state in India hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with positive case numbers worse than the year before, the state has now entered a partial lockdown, once again. Night curfew and weekend lockdowns have been implemented. Restaurants, bars, and eateries have once again shut doors on government orders to stop the spread of the virus.
But as shutters come down on restaurants, the owners are looking at a fate that they had never imagined.
“Things were finally looking up and the hospitality industry had only just started to recover when the night curfew and weekend lockdown got imposed again. While we understand that the government has imposed the curfew keeping in mind public safety and rising numbers, this will probably be the final nail in the coffin for the F&B industry,” Riyaaz Amlani, chief executive officer and managing director Impresario Handmade Restaurants told Business Insider. Amlani is the man behind the popular ‘SOCIAL’ chain of restaurants.
Anurag Katriar, president of National Restaurants Association of India (NRAI), wrote on Twitter that it is better to shut restaurants down completely instead of this ‘excruciating slow death’.
Dear Maharashtra Govt,Please shut down the F&B biz in the state completely! This slow death is more excruciating.… https://t.co/ypFVWZzwwu— Anurag Katriar (@KingKatriar) 1617549950000
Last year in March, as the COVID-19 pandemic had begun, restaurants, like all other businesses, had shut down. While many other businesses gathered steam online, for restaurants the main driver of their business is the dine-in aspect. As things opened up in June 2020, restaurants went on a marketing drive to promote the precautionary measures taken up to keep dine-in safe and secure.
“About 75% of our business happens during dinner hours, and now with an 8 p.m. curfew even home deliveries have been hit hard,” said Amlani.
Many outlets have shut shop, while many others are now struggling to stay afloat. Popular chain The Thickshake Factory has put a stop on all expansion plans.
“While the exponentially rising Covid cases are definitely a cause of concern, a selective sector-wide lockdown of restaurants and bars will hit the already under stress sector very hard. The restaurant industry is already reeling under heavy losses. While local trains are running with full capacity, shutting down restaurants is an unwelcome step in my opinion,” Yeshwanth Nag Mocherla, founder of The Thickshake Factory told Business Insider.
Can there be alternatives?
Restaurateurs also understand the importance of strict measures to control the COVID-19 pandemic. What they are urging for is an alternative to help their businesses survive. "The hospitality industry is with the government. We will once again support the government like we did last year. But, there will be no hospitality industry if the government does not reciprocate. We are doomed this time around if we are expected to be both, shut for business, and not receive any relief. The government has to meet us somewhere in between," said Pradeep Shetty, senior vice president, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI).
Shetty has a laundry list for the government to pull out the restaurant industry out of the crisis. “Shut us but do justice to the owners, staff, and their families. Take care of the salaries. Unburden the owners of the property tax, waive off the statutory fees, don't generate electricity and water bills until the industry becomes completely operational again. We understand that the government has to take measures but it's coming at a cost that we just can't bear any more,” he said.
Mocherla, too, agrees that even heavy fines for flouting social distancing guidelines could be a better option.
But there have been lessons learnt during the pandemic which could come of use. Multiple restaurants have launched their own apps for online deliveries, while chains like Barbeque Nation, who had built a strong reputation for their dine-in business, embraced home delivery. Amlani’s appeal to customers is only one – support restaurants.
“We would also sincerely urge customers to order directly from restaurants rather than aggregator apps to help us tide through what is once again going to be a hard time for us,” he said.
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