Coronavirus: Restaurant industry hit as footfall dips, several outlets also shut down

By: |
March 17, 2020 5:35 PM

According to the National Restaurant Association of India, in-restaurant dining has witnessed "an approximate business drop of 30-35 per cent".

"There has been a definite impact of the epidemic in the overall food service business, with various segments being impacted in varying degrees. (Representative image)“There has been a definite impact of the epidemic in the overall food service business, with various segments being impacted in varying degrees. (Representative image)

Among the businesses being hit due to the coronavirus outbreak in India is the multi-crore restaurant industry, as footfall dipped at most joints, and several others prepared to shut down.

In the last two weeks, popular hangout places, which would otherwise be at full capacity, especially during weekends and ladies nights, have experienced a steep fall in their customer base, with people avoiding crowded places and choosing to stay at home.

According to the National Restaurant Association of India, in-restaurant dining has witnessed “an approximate business drop of 30-35 per cent”.

“There has been a definite impact of the epidemic in the overall food service business, with various segments being impacted in varying degrees.

“In-restaurant dining is also seeing a big impact…with the restaurants located within mall premises recording a sharper drop,” Anurag Katriar, President of NRAI, told PTI.

The COVID-19 outbreak which has been declared a pandemic by the WHO has infected at least 126 people in India, and claimed three lives. Globally, more than 1,50,000 people have tested positive for the deadly virus.

Delhi-based Vineet Khunger, who used to go out to dine or party at least twice or thrice a week, has now restricted himself within the four walls of his house.

“I’m pretty paranoid about it, considering it’s ridiculously contagious and you wouldn’t even know you have it for the first few days.

“I’m barely stepping out in the evening these days – best to play it safe till it blows over. I’m avoiding malls, any large gatherings, and even cramped, tightly-packed restaurants and pubs,” said the 39-year-old interior firm designer.

To reassure people like Khunger, several restaurants in Delhi, and outside have adopted the precautionary measures in accordance with the WHO guidelines and made sanitiser facilities available for both the staff as well as the customers.

Kampai, a Japanese cuisine restaurant in Aerocity, has stepped up its hygiene regime.

“Footfall has definitely dipped and business has suffered. But we are assuring our customers of all the hygiene practices we are following in order for them to feel safe while dining with us.

“Japanese cuisine on its own comes with very high levels of discipline in the kitchen and restaurant floor. Additionally, our team works with masks, gloves and constantly sanitises,” said Avantika Sinha Bahl, Founder & Director of Kampai.

She added that the furniture at the restaurant is also disinfected regularly using alcohol-based disinfectants, and guests are asked to sanitise before entering the dining space.

Following a strict precautionary routine of sanitising facilities, and thermal screening both his staff and customers for nearly two weeks, F&B entrepreneur Priyank Sukhija has decided to shut all his properties across the country starting March 18 till March 31.

Sukhija, who owns restaurant chains including Lord Of The Drinks, Café Jalwa, Tamasha, Lazeez Affaire, RPM, and Flying Saucer, said in the current situation, he had “to think about our staff and patrons more than our business”.

“In the wake of coronavirus we can’t deny the fact that restaurants are places where social distancing can’t be practised.

“At midnight today we are shutting down all our restaurants till 31st March across the country and we will be back with a bang once the virus goes. We also urge the government to take similar steps for those who are open so that we can fight this out before it goes out of our hands. Be safe and see you all very soon,” Sukhija said.

World Bank employee Sayan Kundu who has been working from home for the last two weeks, said he has cancelled all plans to meet people outside in the several upcoming weeks.

“I was never a regular party hopper but I do like to meet work people as well as friends for dinner and drinks. I have completely avoided that. And this being spring, the frequency of going out would have been higher.

“But now, I am practising social distancing from everyone apart from close friends whose travel history I am aware of,” the 30-year-old consultant economist said.

Last week was disappointing for Spice Market – Kitchen & Bar in Saket, with an “exceptionally slow” Sunday. The footfall was reduced by at least 40-45 per cent, said restaurant owner Sumit Gulati.

“There’s definitely been a hit, especially in the last week. The Sunday and the following Monday were exceptionally slow,” he said.

Besides following the usual precautions like wearing masks and using sanitisers, the restaurant now does an end of the day cleaning every single day.

According to Katriar, the industry might be headed towards a shutdown, if the “situation doesn’t improve immediately”.

“Food Service Industry works on a fairly high proportion of fixed operating costs and therefore such sharp drop in revenues in going to cause severe losses for the businesses.

“If the situation doesn’t improve immediately, we reckon that this will lead to business shutdown and job losses within the sector,” said the NRAI president.

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