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Restaurants witness revival as Delhi rediscovers appetite for eating out



Hotel Hyatt Regency has a new west Asian restaurant Syrah; restaurateur Zorawar Kalra has introduced a new space, Bo Tai Switch, at Shangri-La’s Eros New Delhi while restaurateur Navneet Karla has started his new concept eatery Kakapo in Mehrauli.

Taj hotels added The Connaught to its portfolio of hotels in the city and reopened the iconic Machan eatery at Taj Mahal on Man Singh Road while Roseate Hotels opened their cafe Roasted by Roseate in Vasant Kunj. Popular diners Dum Pukht and Bukhara at ITC Maurya are witnessing their usual busy days and running packed even on weekdays. Restaurateur Varun Puri added Mad – Music & Drinks at Rajouri Garden to his existing portfolio of Imly and Duty Free

For the capital’s restaurant industry, which was staring at multiple closures and a bleak future — various estimates suggested nearly 50% spaces were getting closed permanently since Covid-19 pandemic struck — 2020 is at least ending on a relatively bright note with new openings and better footfall.

While most outlets in Rajouri Garden and Punjabi Bagh are clocking 70% of last year’s revenue, Deepak Tandon of Wok in the Clouds says those in Connaught Place and Khan Market have also started picking up steam and touching almost 50% sales of last year.

While the recovery was expected to begin from Diwali, most restaurants in the city actually started witnessing a turnaround from December onwards.

Restaurants such as Café Turtle that shut are planning to reopen at a new venue while high energy diners such as Ophelia and Olive are again witnessing good turnout. Fab Cafe by the Lake at Sunder Nursery is the latest social media sensation while Colocal at Dhan Mill Complex has a waiting queue every weekend. And Padmanabham opened its second outlet in GK I.

It has been a positive experience for even newer ventures such as Sloppy Sticks where founder Aprajita Dutt has observed a positive response to her Asian food delivery with newer orders everyday while restaurant Avantika Sinha is busy planning opening her new Singaporean cuisine outlet soon.

Tandon has observed that most outlets have reopened or others that had closed have shifted to different locations due to better rentals. Tandon says pandemic has been just the ‘market correction’ that was needed as many places are available for cheaper and realistic rents. “Many places reduced their rents by almost half. This made it feasible for restaurants to stay open. Those who didn’t agree to waive of rents, lost their years old tenants, as most owners had better deals available and have started reopening at new locations,” says Tandon.

While the recovery was expected to begin from Diwali, most markets in the city actually started witnessing a turnaround from December onwards. Varun Khera, Noida chapter head of National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) who is also relaunching his own outlets Kaffiiaa and KA Eclairs at different locations says many like him had shut shop but are reopening at different locations as sentiments are definitely more positive and there are better rentals on offer.

He observes there is a definite positive vibe in the market and outlets in the market and main malls such as Garden Galleria and DLF Mall of India have started doing decent business. “People are coming in decent numbers and dining out,” Khera says.

From first few months in pandemic where hotels were shut, Madhav Sehgal, GM, Andaz Aerocity says the last four Sunday brunches at restaurants in his hotel have been sold out while room occupancy is touching 70%. Having started their new wing named Hyatt Delhi Residences, apartments at the hotel recently, Sehgal attributes positive response being driven by public sentiment. “People are stepping out for hotel stay and meals and following all protocols. Even though domestic Indian corporate travel has yet to start, the local city crowd’s response is making us optimistic,” he says.

While sentiment is definitely better than any other month this year, Gurugram chapter head of NRAI and restaurateur Inderjeet Singh Banga says Gurgram will take some more time to show full recovery as most corporate offices are still shut. He has closed his popular outlet Prankster and says many like him will reopen it later at a different venue as there are multiple locations with better rentals available. “Most outlets have touched 50% of their sales and things will get even better as offices slowly start reopening and the workforce starts to return,” Banga explains.

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