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Life at night back in NCR



A packed dining area, a bustling bar, happy chatter, clinking glasses and people grooving on the dance floor – this once-common weekend vibe went missing from NCR’s restaurants and pubs for almost two years. But finally, the action and entertainment is back in the city’s nightlife scene. With people finally returning for wining-and-dining experiences, restaurateurs are heaving a sigh of relief and hoping for revenue to reach pre-COVID numbers soon. “There has been an increase in footfall, which is an early sign of revival. All shops, restaurants and malls are open and people are proactively taking the decision to get their lives back to ‘normal’. Restaurants are getting an overwhelming number of requests for reservations each day, which is a good sign,” says Saahil Garg, founder, Green Mantis restaurant.

‘The pandemic took two years of our lives, people are now ready to party’
In the last two years, the hospitality industry has been hit so badly that many outlets had to permanently shut shop. But now when restaurants and bars have been allowed to operate without any restrictions, there have been early signs of revival. Ajit Shah, partner at White Panda Hospitality, says, “Ever since the restrictions have been lifted, the industry has seen a sudden spike in footfall. We have a good number of customers coming in, our regular customers as well as new customers. There has been an upswing in spending as well. The one thing that has changed post COVID is the mindset of people dining out. The pandemic has taken away two years of our lives, so people are adopting the millennial mindset of ‘you only live once’ and are looking forward to spending fun, quality time with friends and family.” Aftab Sidhu, Operations Manager & Consultant, Kakapo, says, “Most restaurants have managed to reopen and get their footfall back, this, along with new restaurants opening in the summer months, is very unusual but it is happening this summer in Delhi.”

‘Hygiene and safety are top priorities now’
As restaurants gear up to meet high footfall and some operational challenges that they are facing after reopening, they say that hygiene and safety is their top priority. They say that like food, interiors and music, COVID safety is now important for diners. Restaurateur Goumtesh Singh, who owns a number of restaurants in NCR, says, “People have started venturing out and trying places again, which is a very positive sign. The business has picked up ever since time restrictions have been lifted. A lot of SOPs have changed for us and we also have to make layout changes to make sure that the customer is feeling safe and our staff is also trained to ensure hygiene protocols are being strictly followed.” Satyajit Dhingra, Chief Regional Officer – North, Impresario Handmade Restaurants, adds, “Hygiene and safety have become number one priority for both restaurant management as well as patrons.” “Sanitisation, thermal screening and social distancing protocols are in place. We need to keep our guard up and be prepared, as this industry was the worst hit during the first two waves. It is very important to keep the crowd in check even after being back in action,” says Gurmeher Sethi, chef and co-owner, Klap.

‘Ready for weekend dinners again’
Rina Ahuja, a Gurgaon resident, is among those who went to dine out recently after two years. “We used to go out every weekend till March 2020, but during the pandemic we decided to not eat out for the safety of kids and elders in the family. After two years, we finally decided to start our weekend dinners at restaurants again and I was happy to see that safety and hygiene protocols are being followed. I would just advise that everyone should make a reservation to avoid crowding at the entrance,” she says. Even those who were sticking to house parties have now started planning parties at restaurants again. “House parties are good, but partying with friends at clubs and restaurants with good music is fun . It is difficult to get that kind of ambience at home. I actually felt that some normalcy is back in life when I went out with my friends recently and got to dance at a pub,” says Sarthak Shukla, a manager from Noida.

‘Live events and gigs are back’
Weekend gigs and DJ nights have always been big ticket events for restaurants, but when outlets were barely managing to operate with restrictions, live entertainment went missing from NCR’s nightlife. However, there’s been a change in the last few days and live gigs and performances are being scheduled again. “Everyone needs to earn, including the performers. So yes, live gigs and other entertainment events are back. People are pre-booking spots and our seating arrangement has been modified so that people can dance near their tables,” says Goumtesh, explaining that crowd management during such events will be crucial for restaurants now. Satyajit adds, “Live performances are making a comeback and we are ensuring that every precaution is in place to avoid overcrowding.” Says restaurateur Varun Khera, also the Noida chapter head of National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), “Live gigs and events have started again and we hope to see a great calendar of shows in all of NCR. Crowd management is always a concern when you have a big ticket event but COVID has ensured basic sense of social distancing and balanced occupancy ratios as we still need to careful with protocols.”

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