The company which owns brands such as SodaBottleOpenerWala is focusing on thinking out of the box and enhancing the customers’ delivery experience
The restaurant industry is navigating rough waters. Business has dried up, patrons have been lost and companies are engaged in tedious conversations with landlords over easing of the terms of rent agreements. AD Singh, founder & MD at Olive Group of Restaurants that owns brands like SodaBottleOpenerWala tells Fe’s Asmita Dey that the group expects to end up shutting two or three restaurants. Excerpts:
The restaurant sector has been severely impacted by the pandemic forcing a handful of restaurant chains to shut few outlets. Are you contemplating a similar move?
Now that the lockdown is easing, our discussions with our landlords are being concluded. Many of our landlords are being very supportive but wherever they are not I am afraid we are going to have to shut down those outlets. So as such we are in the final throes of negotiations with a few landlords and I fully expect we will end up shutting two or three restaurants sadly.
How has the delivery business shaped up? Can you give us a sense of the order volumes?
We are working on our delivery product. Thinking out of the box and enhancing the customers’ delivery experience has been the focus. For instance, at Guppy when you order for delivery today you do not just get the food but a whole lot of playful things, like specially designed fridge magnets, laptop stickers, puzzle cards to while your time away. Every delivery package goes with a personalised message card detailing the body temperature checks of the chef, packer, delivery person and safety instructions for unboxing the food package along with the hygiene protocols we follow.
How has the dine-in business fared post unlock? Do you think the government’s move to disallow liquor services has hampered the revival of the sector?
The dine-in business has been very slow. Footfalls have been erratic and mostly limited to the weekends. The curfew and non-service of alcohol make it impossible to open all restaurants for dine-in. Dining out is incomplete without the service of alcohol. Customers would like a glass of wine with their pasta or a beer with their pizza over dinner on the table and there is no reason to deny them that.
What will be your business strategy to survive this pandemic? When do you see business getting back on track?
We are looking to reopen some more restaurants where there is a chance of minimising losses so that there is at least some flow of money to our staff, vendors, and landlords who have all been very supportive. Parallelly, we are working on an array of delivery options and format.
What would you seek from authorities?
The last few months have been crippling for restaurant groups and the level of losses have been substantial. Some of the steps that the authorities could help us with are — giving a lifeline to employees from the ESIC insurance corpus, allowing the service of alcohol for diners, removal of ITC for the industry and proactively deferring licence fee, other statutory payments for the current year. Declaring the pandemic as a force majeure for the industry and mandating banks to defer EMIs on existing loans for a longer period than the present will also give a huge relief.