Chef Rachel Goenka, founder and CEO of The Chocolate Spoon Company talks about the challenges brought on by lockdowns, and the path ahead.
With the restaurant industry stumbling through lockdowns across the country, many are in dire straits. Despite being among the largest employers of human capital in India, the industry has had little help from policy makers. In this scenario, restaurateurs have turned to innovative measures to survive. We caught up with Chef Rachel Goenka, founder and CEO of The Chocolate Spoon Company, to try and understand the challenges her business is facing and the way to move ahead, on the other side of lockdowns.
TG: How are you dealing with the second wave and associated restrictions as a business? Have there been any drastic changes to your business model?
RG: The business has definitely taken a hit. We have quickly adapted to our learnings from the past and started promoting deliveries through our own website as well as delivery partners such as Zomato and Swiggy. Just before the second wave, we observed an increase in dine-in customers as more and more people were getting confident to step out, knowing the precautions we were taking. We were still being very careful and I think that is what encouraged customers to step out. Now, with the new restrictions in play, restaurants have gone back to taking orders online and offering only delivery or take out.
TG: Lockdowns, obviously, will gradually be lifted. How do you plan to reopen and what kind of measures will you take to boost diner confidence?
RG: We are eagerly looking forward to hosting people at the restaurants. We will continue to have strict hygiene and safety protocols and will adhere to whatever protocols the government sets, keeping the situation in mind.
TG: Vaccinations will likely roll out in much greater volumes over the next couple of months. How important will vaccine drives be to resume normal activity?
RG: The vaccination drives definitely play an important role to resume normal activities such as dining in, having the freedom to travel and engaging in leisure activities. However, we must not forget that taking the vaccine does not mean that it completely secures us from getting the virus, people should still maintain the social distancing, sanitise regularly, wear their masks and follow all precautionary measures.
TG: You obviously had plans for the year, with some openings happening right before the second wave hit. How have these been affected and what does the rest of the year look like?
RG: Although we were able to launch House of Mandarin in Sheraton Pune (which was delayed by a year), the launch of Sassy Cafe in BKC has been delayed, again. However, we are glad to have introduced our delivery kitchen brands – Saffron by The Sassy Spoon and Wicked China in Mumbai as well as Pune.
TG: Covid restrictions will be around for a while with safety and hygiene standards probably changed forever. What kind of long-term impacts do you foresee happening across the industry owing to this?
RG: The industry players have definitely been scarred because of the constantly changing business environment and we have observed multiple businesses shutting down due to the losses incurred. However, we have had our own share of learnings too. Namely how one can quickly adapt to the change in business model and strengthen our other leg – delivery kitchens. I do foresee stricter hygiene protocols being adopted and leaving no space for mistakes when it comes to serving customers.