Industry veterans react to Delhi Government’s shutting down of restaurants and bars

The Delhi Disaster Management Authority has shut down all restaurants and bars in Delhi in the wake of the rapidly spreading Omicron variant of COVID. What does it mean for an already embattled restaurant and hospitality industry? Industry leaders weigh in.

In an order issued today, January 11, 2022, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) added new restrictions to contain the rapidly spreading Omicron variant of COVID-19. One of them is the stopping of in-person dining at all of Delhi’s restaurants and bars until further notice. Home delivery and takeaway of food items will, however, be allowed. As everyone discovered in previous lockdowns, takeaways are not enough for restaurants to achieve break even, much less thrive, especially in Delhi which has famously high rentals and a market which prefers dine-in. 

The Delhi Government’s decision to shut down all restaurants and bars has, therefore, come as a shocker to the restaurant industry. Already beleaguered and battered by COVID-19, the restaurants were just bouncing back when the third wave put paid to any recovery. In fact, there have been many new restaurant launches in the last few months, concepts that were possibly incubated during the pandemic or even before and had patiently waited in the wings to take flight. Restaurants in five-star hotels have not been spared either. Even resident guests will be allowed in-room dining only. 

Traveldine got some leading restaurateurs, hoteliers and chefs to react to this alarming development. 

Kabir Suri

President of nrai and co-founder & director, azure hospitality, kabir suri

President of NRAI and Co-Founder & Director, Azure Hospitality, Kabir Suri put out a strongly worded statement: 

“Right from the onset of COVID, the restaurant sector has been one of the worst hit. We were the first ones to be shut and almost the last ones to restart during the first and second lockdowns and I reckon that this third wave is going to be even worse than last year. We somehow survived so far, but with the new guidelines announced today in Delhi it seems highly unlikely that we can sustain any longer. We were shut for most part of last year. We have been operating at 50% and restricted hours since then. We had just about started seeing some respectable surge in consumption which prompted us to hire back our people and now we are left in a lurch. These new guidelines, which prohibit dining completely and allow only deliveries, are completely unsustainable. It is like an excruciating and painful slow death for an erstwhile vibrant industry. 

“Delhi NCR is the ‘Restaurant Capital’ of India with the highest number of restaurants in the country which is reflected in the vibrancy of cuisines it offers on varied price points. Its Food Service Market employs the second-highest number of people amongst Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata. 

“There are about 95,187 eateries in Delhi between organised and unorganised. Out of this 32,777 are organised restaurants (with FSSAI number and GST). While unorganised will also take the brunt of these new guidelines, but the real brunt will come from the Organised Segment as they have a complete chain/employees, Govt taxes, Suppliers, etc. The revenue generated per year from Organised Restaurants in Delhi is Rs 31,132 crores. Also, dine-out frequency in Delhi is maximum, 6 times per month compared to the national average of 4.5 times per month whereas takeaway/delivery is meagre. All of this is going to be standstill once again! 

“We are also very worried about the fate of 3,01,715 people employed in Delhi’s restaurants. We don’t want them to suffer but unfortunately, we don’t have adequate resources to support them for long. 

“Despite all the facts, it is very sad and disheartening to see that our industry is the only sector which has been singled out every time. We are one of those sectors that always work in a safe, closed environment with all the safety protocols in place but are always asked to shut down while some other activities continue to function. 

“We need some urgent oxygen for our survival. I urge the Delhi Government to either allow us to operate normal hours with safeguards and protocols or compensate us, our employees, suppliers and landlords suitably for the loss of business arising out of the lockdown.” 

Vijay Wanchoo

Sr executive vice president and general manager of the imperial new delhi, vijay wanchoo

Sr Executive Vice President and General Manager of The Imperial New Delhi, Vijay Wanchoo outlined the unique pain points of Delhi’s hotel industry:

“The hospitality industry is the worst hit during the pandemic and the third wave poses another big challenge, when the government has released the no dine-in order now. It’s actually a surprise for us that when hotels and restaurants follow all safety and hygiene protocols why they are the first ones to be targeted during an upsurge in cases, when buses and metros operate at full capacity. 

“The impact of this move will be majorly on the F&B sector. Even the hotel guests are allowed to eat only in the rooms and no restaurants are operating. Also, with so many restrictions being imposed on Delhi hotels, associates will start looking for opportunities in the Delhi NCR region where the scenario is still better and jobs are safer.  

“50 percent capacity in restaurants was fine and we had adapted to it, but now, it will further impact the room count which will be detrimental for the F&B revenue, other than the ban on local walk-ins. However, to combat this we have to be aggressive in our home delivery and take away orders, mid-week staycations, workations, be ready for adversities and strategise much ahead in time.

“The situation is very volatile but we need to stay mindful and act calmly for the benefit of guests and the associates alike.”

Varun Tuli

Managing director of the yum yum tree group, varun tuli

Managing Director of The Yum Yum Tree Group, Varun Tuli had a balanced reaction:

“The shutdown is actually a good thing when we speak about safety, about our customers as well as our employees. But the problem is the government keeps taking these ad-hoc decisions and they do nothing for the industry. If they were to compensate or to do something for us, it would make sense but they aren’t doing anything for us.”

Sid Mathur

Director, secret ingredient, a turnkey restaurant consultancy, sid mathur

Director, Secret Ingredient, a turnkey restaurant consultancy, Sid Mathur said: 

“Safety is the top-most priority for all, but it’s sad that restaurants are always the first to shut and the last to open. There are so many public places, congested high streets that still remain open, despite no social distancing/following of rules. On the whole, restaurants adhere to COVID protocols rather efficiently, and are very particular on safety.”

Sabyasachi Gorai

Chef sabyasachi gorai,president, young chefs association of india

President, Young Chefs Association of India and Traveldine’s go-to chef for all matters culinary, Chef Sabyasachi Gorai made this impassioned plea:

“Look, it’s always been fairly one sided. Last year it was said it would happen on the first lockdown, then on the second lockdown; I don’t know how it stops the spreading of COVID. Last year, first the bars got closed. I don’t know if there is any specific reason as to why people will catch the virus. I am very informed of the government’s policies of social distancing and other methodologies of not letting COVID spread. I don’t know why it’s the hospitality industry that has to constantly face the brunt. Everybody seems to be taking it easy, and every other industry has been given some sort of a relief but the restaurants and hospitality industry has been given no relief, whether in terms of monetary terms, loans or otherwise, not even any support for rental income. I have personally closed all my restaurants last year and have been waiting for this storm to pass, the cloud to settle down. Post that, I will rethink of opening my restaurants once again. Right now, we can pray to stay safe, and hope that this passes soon.”

Read more. 

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