It’s been a lockdown for us restauranteurs since March 20 and almost 6 months down the line and still no respite. Why the impartial behaviour towards this sector?
The Rs 1.5-lakh crore organised restaurant business employs nearly 40 lakh kitchen and restaurant workers, once the restrictions are lifted, restaurants will have to rework their business models and overcome operational challenges. With consumers turning more health-conscious, hygiene protocols at restaurants and supply chains will need to improve materially, which will increase the cost.
The dine-in segment accounts for 75% of the business within the organised sector, while online delivery/takeaway makes up the rest. Low utilisation levels are likely to prompt the industry to reduce fixed costs through outlet closure, job, and salary cuts leading to mass unemployment.
The decline in restaurant revenues will, in turn, impact horticulture farmers, dairy producers, food processors, suppliers, and logistics partners. Unorganised food producers, many of which have high exposure to the restaurant sector, will be hit the hardest due to a sharp decline in demand.
All the other sectors are allowed to resume their businesses so why the impartiality meted out to the hospitality industry when it is heavily burdened by heavy fixed costs and no relief package announced until
Yet from the government. Survival has become a question mark at this point?
There is a complete comprehensive SOP designed by the NRAI to be followed upon resuming business but the big question is when?
The restaurant industry is one of the hardest hit by coronavirus-induced lockdown in the country. Massive layoffs are just the tip of the iceberg. Getting people back into restaurants and regaining their confidence once the lockdown is over is likely to be the next big hurdle in reviving the industry. The fear of COVID-19 among customers and hesitation to spend might prove to be a death knell for eateries. Dining out is a social experience and with social distancing norms in place, this will be another obstacle to mull over.
Even as businesses in India are opening up, restaurants remain shut to the despair of owners who would take a long time to regain the confidence of customers. Human interaction remains at the centre of the restaurant business and taking it out of the equation would have adverse effects on the industry. Hygiene and contactless deliveries are already in place.
There is an urgency to revive this sector and needs immediate attention from our government to offer some relief packages to salvage this industry.
Neeti Goel is a restauranteur and social activist.
The views expressed in the article above are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house.