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This is what dining out in India post-lockdown will look like



Remember the time you could just walk into a restaurant—on a date or for a business meeting or just because? It was just a few months ago but it certainly feels like another era. As India starts ‘unlocking’, and restaurants start reopening, eating out is set to change drastically. Here’s what the dining in the time of a pandemic will look like. 

Table manners

“The economy and customer confidence have taken a big hit because of the pandemic, and will need time to recover. We will need to normalise the eating out culture once again,” says Riyaaz Amlani, CEO & MD, Impresario Handmade Restaurants, which runs SOCIAL and Smoke House Deli outlets across India. Obviously, your favourite restaurant or bar is going to look very different. Expect fewer tables, temperatures checks at entry, and don’t forget to wear your mask. “Customers will also need to show us their health status on the Aarogya Setu app”, says Amlani. Tables will be scrupulously sanitised after every turn, the flowers or candles on your table will be replaced by hand sanitiser bottles, and you will eat out of disposable tableware. “We will also set up floor-mounted acrylic sheets between tables to create a transparent physical barrier”, adds Zorawar Kalra, founder and managing director, Massive Restaurants Pvt Ltd (parent company of restaurants like Masala Library, Pa Pa Ya, Bo Tai, Farzi Café, and others). Also, bid goodbye to physical menus and say hello to contactless ordering via your phone or by scanning QR codes.

Kitchen confidential

It’s not just the front of the house that will look different. The biggest changes will be in the kitchens, which are traditionally crowded spaces, and can therefore easily spread infection. Menus will get tighter so there will be fewer staff in the kitchen. “We will also have a screen in the restaurant area that plays what’s happening in the kitchen live, so you can see that we are implementing all regulations,” says Priyank Sukhija, MD and CEO of First Fiddle F&B Pvt Ltd, which runs restaurants like Diablo in Delhi, Dragonfly Experience in Delhi and Mumbai, as well as chains like Lord of the Drinks and Plum by Bent Chair. Rest assured that safety protocols will extend to sourcing of ingredients too, with PPE-clad staff carrying out medical-grade sanitisation of surfaces and disinfection of raw materials. “Our attention is on responsible sourcing and our vendors are audited for COVID compliance,” adds Karan Kapur, director of K Hospitality Corp, which runs brands like Copper Chimney and Bombay Brasserie, as well as several airport lounges.

Opening bell

So, will you be eating out anytime soon? Sector 7 SOCIAL in Chandigarh and Smoke House Deli’s Bengaluru outlets opened for dine-in last week. “We are fully prepared to open up in Delhi and Mumbai too as soon as we have permission from the state authorities to do so”, says Amlani. K Hospitality Corp has opened their airport lounges at Bengaluru and Mumbai as well as some restaurants, food courts, and cafes at Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, and Goa airports. “We shall be opening Copper Chimney and Bombay Brasserie as and when we get clearance from the government authorities”, says Kapur. Kalra expects to open his restaurants soon but Sukhija is cautious and doesn’t plan to open at least until August. “I do not want to expose my employees to the infection and so we will open only when the curve flattens or we start coming down from the peak”, he says.

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