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Permission for alcohol is a step in the right direction, but we need to be responsible: Anurag Katriar



With Unlock 4.0, a long standing demand of the F&B industry, the permission to serve alcohol, has been given in some parts of the country — for instance, Goa, Karnataka and West Bengal. ETHospitalityWorld spoke to Anurag Katriar, the President of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) and Executive Director & CEO, deGustibus Hospitality on this allowance.

“I think this is a step in the right direction and is a very positive move, because now at least the government policy has created an opportunity to go back to normalcy minus the capacity utilisation, because there is no curfew, which was the second worry we had other than seats,” Katriar said.

Now at least restaurants will have the opportunity to draw some consumption. It will still take time — but now restaurants have the ability to go to customers and tell them, everything on the menu is available and it is safe to come out to eat. Now it’s time to start those confidence building measures, he said.

Katriar also had a word of caution, “I just sincerely hope that segregation of containment and non-containment zone, which is at the crux of this relaxation, should be observed very strictly by not only restaurateurs but authorities and state governments and locals, because if we err and there is a spike in cases, then this start-stop measure will become a stop-stop, which will be very bad for the sector. So, we have got an opportunity, we need to use it responsibly.”

The NRAI President’s advice to his fellow restaurateurs is simple. “Earlier, we did not have the permission or ability to operate the way we wanted to. Now we have got that permission after nearly six months. Let us use it responsibly. Let us understand that while the responsibility of keeping safe dining experience lies with every stakeholder including the customers themselves, the prime responsibility lies with us,” he said.

In pursuit of that one extra table or that little extra sale, don’t jeopardise the sector. Play responsibly, follow the SOPS to the T, he said. “This is a time to display that we are a responsible community, and we understand our responsibility towards people at large. We have to understand as restaurateurs, on one hand, we have the guest, on the other, we have our employees, the third part of the triangle, are our suppliers and channel partners who come to us. We have to guard against each and for each,” he explained.

“I don’t see us going hundred percent full right away. I will be very happy to be proven wrong in my prediction, but I think it will start with some adventurous youngsters will begin going out and restaurants will have to simultaneously start communicating with the consumers not on the products or pricing, but on the safety measures. The combination of these two will create a word of mouth which hopefully will be positive,” Katriar said, forecasting what may happen going forward from this point.

“Once that word of mouth happens, that is the most sustainable way of not only recovering, but growing from there on, but obviously this is a very slow process, so we all need to have patience,” he added.

Reminding us again that the unlock measures were an economic step, to try and restart business. Covid-19 still remains a large part of the reality of anything we do, and everyone still needs to take every precaution prescribed by authorities.

“We all have to remember one thing, there will be cash burns because business is not going to be at a great level to begin with, but this is only the beginning. All I would say is if there are cash burns, reduce costs, don’t jeopardise safety to increase earnings. Do not make that mistake,” he warned.

“We need to be very responsible — not only restaurateurs, but our employees, our consumers, everyone has to be very responsible,” he added.

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