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Features

Restaurants to make safety the main course

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NEW DELHI: The National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) put in place a self-regulatory regime in the interests of boosting safety at the 5,500 outlets that are its members, following the fire at a Mumbai rooftop restaurant that killed 14 early on Friday.

Restaurants not complying with the exhaustive norms will be de-listed from NRAI and those seeking fresh membership will need to comply with them.

External agencies will conduct mandatory checks to ensure compliance. “Two-thirds of the restaurant industry remains unorganised and susceptible to flouting norms,” said NRAI president Rahul Singh. “Let the customer shun establishments which fall short of standards. This will tilt the balance towards legit entities.”

The self-regulation exercise will be over and above government rules.

Under the norms, NRAI will have to be given copies of all statutory licences for fire safety and operations, fire safety officers will have to be employed, fire extinguishers will need to be installed and recharged, fire exits will have to be clearly marked and communicated to guests, and external agencies will be brought in to conduct periodic checks, among other measures.

While the fire norms will vary from state to state, most elements will be common. The association is also in the process of putting together a safety protocol for public awareness. Specific to fire safety, NRAI will be advising members on self-regulation aspects of preventive maintenance, staff training and emergency plans.
“We are witnessing the exigencies of the recent tragedy in the form of a severe clampdown across India,” Singh said.

“It’s a wakeup call for all stakeholders including restaurant owners, staff, government functionaries as well as the guests,” said NRAI president Rahul Singh.

Thus far, NRAI membership has been provided on the basis of a copy of a restaurant’s licence to operate. The two restaurants that caught fire were 1Above and Mojo’s Bistro at Mumbai’s Kamala Mills. Since then, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which has been blamed by some for not enforcing safety rules, has demolished several allegedly illegal structures said to have been added on by restaurants.

The fire has led to patrons raising questions on social media about fire safety measures in high-density restaurant locations such as Delhi’s Khan Market and Hauz Khas Village. Given the presence of open flames, hot equipment, electrical connections, cooking oil, cleaning chemicals, paper products and wooden furniture, the lack of detailed safety measures at restaurants and bars can make these high-risk zones, they pointed out.

One of the country’s largest eating and entertainment destinations, DLF-operated CyberHub in Gurgaon, said it ensures full compliance with regulations. “We have issued advisories to all restaurant companies at our premises to display their fire NoCs (no objection certificates) upfront at the stores to assure customers, since we are a compliant company,” said Pushpa Bector, head of DLF Shopping Malls.

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