A 72-year old Delhi restaurant that hosted Lord Mountbatten, Raj Kapoor, Yash Chopra and Arun Jaitley says this year is about survival

The Embassy
  • The Embassy, in New Delhi, is staring at least a ₹3 crore loss in revenue due to the coronavirus lockdown.
  • The restaurant employs 90 people and was forced to defer salaries of all its employees.
  • Even if the lockdown ends, only 20% of its customers will return to dine in, according to Savar Malhotra, the third generation owner of The Embassy

“We were closed for almost 2 months, we didn’t want to take risks by starting takeaways. I went to the restaurant for 2 hours a couple of days back after the norms were relaxed. There was nobody, just a few guards patrolling,” Savar Malhotra, partner at The Embassy, one of the first restaurants of independent India, told Business Insider India.

The Embassy was started in the summers of 1948 by two friends — PN Malhotra and G.K Ghal — soon after they left Karachi and came back to India during partition.

The Embassy

Seventy years into business the restaurant has experienced the best and the worst moments of India from emergency in 1975 to the most-recent violent protest in India against Citizenship Amendment Act.
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It is popular for its Mughlai dishes, lauki ka achaar (bottle-gourd pickle), the Embassy samosa and mutton dishes like murgh musallam and dal meat.

The 72-year old restaurant was a go-to place for many, from the last Viceroy of India Lord Mountbatten to Bollywood star Raj Kapoor, filmmaker Yash Chopra and comedy star Kapil Sharma, to the former Finance Minister, the late Arun Jaitley,

There was a time when regular customers used to include “9.30 am to 11.am Embassy Restaurant” on their visiting cards.
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However, the coronavirus outbreak has pushed a large number of restaurants at the brink of collapse — risking the jobs of at least 7 million in India. According to Malhotra, the Embassy is looking at least a ₹3 crore loss in revenues because of the complete shutdown.

It was a bad year even before the pandemic

The Embassy
The troubles for the restaurant started way back in December last year when the consumer sentiments were dull due to violent protest in Delhi.

“2020 has been a very difficult year for us. There were violent protests going on in Delhi against CAA (the Citizenship Amendment Act) from the start until February,” Malhotra said.
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The coronavirus outbreak added more to their miseries. With zero footfalls, the Embassy was forced to defer the salaries — worth ₹20 lakh — of all the 90 employees for an uncertain duration.

“We didn’t announce any layoffs as some of them have worked with us for more than 50 years but all the payments were deferred. We try to pay those who ask for funds,” Malhotra told Business Insider India.

Though Malhotra has planned to open the restaurant after lockdown, he is uncertain about what the post covid world will mean for them.
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It’s about survival
The Embassy

A whole lot of restaurant owners including Malhotra are hoping to get through the tough times somehow and start thinking about making profits later.

The Embassy, which at a time can accommodate 400-500 people, will witness only 20% footfall as people won’t be risking their lives by dining out. There were also about a 1,000 people in a day visiting a small food joint owned by the restaurant in Connaught Place before the COVID-19 pandemic but with change in consumer sentiment, Malhotra expects, there will be a major drop in footfalls.

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Malhotra wants the government to roll out a structured set of measures to bail out the restaurant industry in India. “We are not sure if covid-19 is transmitted through food or not. Moreover, we don’t even know the specific measures that we can take to prevent the spread of the virus,” he said.

“Our goal for 2020-21 is not to make profit but to survive. We expected a lot from the government’s stimulus package but were left with nothing,” Malhotra said.

SEE ALSO: From Hard Rock Cafe to a Bengaluru bakery⁠— disposable menus, no live bands, half the number of tables, and fewer waiters are part of the post-COVID strategy
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