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So what’s cooking for F&B?



Restaurateurs are worried their businesses are going to change in ways they had never imagined before. Metrolife spoke to business insiders, and found them preparing for sweeping changes.

Fewer tables

Eating out was an activity many in Bengaluru enjoyed, especially on the weekends. With the virus scare, physical distancing is here to stay and a visit to the restaurant doesn’t look as much fun as before. Anurag Katriar, President of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), says there could soon be a cap on the number of people allowed inside at pubs, bars and restaurants.

Restaurants may have to reduce the number of tables, and the seating may come down to 30 to 50 per cent of the current capacity, he says.

South Indian places like Adyar Ananda Bhavan and MTR, not to speak of the darshinis, will also have to change their style too.

“Right now, they have too many people crowding in. It’s going to be interesting to find out how the owners will tackle this problem,” says Priya Bala, food writer and author of the book ‘Start Up Your Restaurant: The Definitive Guide for Anyone Who Dreams of Running Their Own Restaurant’.

Rise of delivery apps 

The lockdown has been a good time for food delivery apps. While the volumes are not as high as before, food delivery has helped many restaurants stay open. Restaurants attached to five-star hotels are among those encouraging takeaways. Some have slashed rates.

Experts say more customers will opt for delivery if restaurants sweeten the deal with discounts. With delivery apps becoming more useful than ever before, aggregators may ask bigger commissions.

Redesigned Menu

Not every dish prepared is ideal for home delivery. Restaurants pride themselves on presentation and serving it hot, but those aspects will be compromised if the focus is on food delivery.

Jayanth Narayan of Mani’s Dum Biryani, says, “Biryani is one of those dishes that will be fine when home delivered. But that may not be the case for every restaurant. They will have to rethink recipes, presentations and formats. This may even mean that some dishes customers have always loved may not be available as they cannot be home delivered.”

Safety No. 1 Priority

Katriar feels hygiene, rather than products or location, will become the new USP.

Customers will want reassurance that everything they are consuming is safe. Open kitchens work best in such a situation.

Cloud kitchens, takeaway outlets that provide no dine-in facility, will have to show they are carefully monitored. Priya says, “Adding a CCTV camera or making a live video of the food being prepared can help build customer confidence,” she suggests. 

Street vendors, on the other hand, may not bounce back all the way as concerns over hygiene will be high. 

Financial trouble

Post Covid-19, the global economy is going to be slow, and customers may not be able to afford eating out.

Since travel and tourism are also predicted to fall, restaurants will face loss of business on that front as well. “It’s going to become the survival of the fittest. I can see every company’s backend being cut to make ends meet,” Katriar explains. 

Some landlords are waiving rent for the lockdown period while others are asking for part or full payment. “Some landlords may want to go in for litigation, which is going to add a strain to restaurant owners. But mind you, if the landlords lose their tenants, they will not be able to find new ones so soon,” says Katriar. 

Need capital loans

Business owners are hoping the government will help them get financial aid from banks. Industry experts are suggesting banks look at the history of individual restaurants and provide loans accordingly.  “Not everyone will be able to survive this on their own; they will need the help of banks. Right now, banks are waiting for the government to say something,” says Jayanth Narayan.

Expansion bad idea

Surviving this and restoring what is lost will be top priority for business owners. 

Jayanth Narayan says he may have to suspend business at some of his biryani outlets if he is unable to make profits. “You can’t really help it at this point. There will be certain outlets that won’t do well and I may have to temporarily close them till things pick up again,” he says. 

Loss of workers

A huge number of waiters and helpers in restaurants are from the Northeast, and neighbouring states such as Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, and restaurant owners are worried they may go home and not return for a while. 

“This will affect business as we won’t have enough manpower to run the show. We don’t know if we can tackle the situation but convincing them that they can go home a little later with a bonus as compensation is the only hope we have right now,” Jayanth says.

Rise in running costs

With transport being restricted and rumours doing the rounds, some poultry farms have buried their chickens alive. Industry insiders say they are sometimes forced to use frozen chicken as fresh poultry isn’t available now. 

Similarly, since most industries are shut, the shortage of raw materials will become a problem in the months to come and the prices may go up. 

What trade body is doing

Anurag Katriar, president of the National Restaurant Association of India, says every relationship in the foodservice ecosystem will be redefined post-Covid-19. “Whether it is between a company and the landlord, company and aggregators, company and customers, they will all be redefined because, in the new era, you will not be able to do business or survive on the old terms of engagement. If we ensure survival of the business, we can all profit later. If the business dies, we have nothing left,” he says. The discussion right now is about how to protect jobs, he told Metrolife.

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