Lockdowns: A losing game for the F&B industry

On Delhi government’s recent order of shutting down restaurants, bars and eateries for dine-in with the third wave of Covid19 making its presence felt, industry players discuss the possible outcomes of this decision

The ongoing pandemic has disrupted almost every single aspect of our lives and has taken a serious toll on our mental peace and security. Apart from the significant loss of lives in the last two years, it has had a dramatic effect on the country’s economic activities. Almost all the businesses have been hit by it in some or the other way but the advent of the third wave has started testing people’s patience and will power. In a recent move, the Delhi government declared to shut down all the restaurants, bars and other eateries for dine-in in the National Capital. Now, this is a big decision for the restaurant/ food businesses that have already undergone several lockdowns and curfews. Some businesses, feel experts from the industry, might not be able to withstand yet another lockdown and shut shop permanently. A few industry players have issued statements in the light of this decision mentioning the challenges and difficulties the industry will be subjected to.   

Kabir Suri, President, NRAI says the third wave is going to be even more detrimental than the second one as the restaurant businesses were shut for the most part of the year and they haven’t got the chance to recover fully. “Right from the onset of Covid19, the restaurant sector has been one of the worst hit. We were the first ones to shut and almost the last ones to restart during the first and second lockdowns. I reckon this third wave is going to be even worse. We somehow survived but with the new guidelines in Delhi, it seems highly unlikely that we can sustain any longer. We have been operating at 50 per cent and restricted hours for most part of the year in 2021. These new guidelines, which prohibits dining completely and allows only deliveries, is completely unsustainable. It is like an excruciating and painful slow death for an erstwhile vibrant industry,” he feels. 

Vidushi Sharma, chef-owner, Mensho Tokyo, says that even after following all the necessary precautions like constant sanitisation, staff vaccination and temperature checks to ensure a safe experience for the guests, the industry hasn’t been able to give the required confidence to the government. “We want this pandemic to end and if it means shutting dine-ins for a certain period of time, we are all for it. But it obviously hurts the business because in every few months the cases witness a spike and we have to shut the business. Whatever the case, we are going to try our best to give people the same experience that they would have in a restaurant via delivery and takeaways. However, it is hard to say how many other restaurants will be able to manage it,” she expresses.  

Commenting on the lockdown, Saniya Puniani, co-founder, Highline, Como Pizzeria and Baking Bad, maintains that lockdowns haven’t helped the industry and the one size fits all model should strictly be dropped for a vast industry like this. “It is unfortunate that an industry already struggling to get back on its feet is again being pushed to the edge. We all know that Covid19 literally shrank the industry by more than half and these lockdowns are not doing anyone a favour. Complete lockdown is not the solution. Restaurants should have also been allowed to operate at 50 per cent and rooftops or open-air restaurants should have been allowed to run normally. One size fits all isn’t the way to go about for such a vast industry,” she says. 

Dhiraj Shetty, assistant F&B manager, Sana di ge Delhi, feels there’s always an option for choosing a middle ground where the restaurant businesses wouldn’t end up taking all the burden of the lockdowns as it directly affects the livelihood of millions. “Even if lockdowns are enforced, we request the government to provide support so that our deliverymen are able to go about with ease. Perhaps a separate dedicated pass should be made available for the food and essential services personnel,” he suggests.  

Vijay Wanchoo, Senior Executive Vice President and GM The Imperial New Delhi, highlights that despite of hotels and restaurants following all safety and hygiene protocols, they are the first ones to be targetted during an upsurge in cases. “The impact of this move will be majorly on the F&B sector. Even the hotel guests are allowed to eat only in the rooms and no restaurants are operating. Also, with so many restrictions being imposed on Delhi hotels, associates will start looking for opportunities in Delhi-NCR where the scenario is still better and jobs are safer,” he feels, adding, “To combat this, we have to be aggressive in our home delivery and takeaway orders, mid-week staycations, workcations and be ready for adversities and strategise much ahead in time.  

Abhishek Tikoo, Founder and Owner, Thalaivar Restaurant asserts that the sudden shutting down of the restaurants will prove to be a death penalty to the restaurants who somehow managed to survive this far. “The restaurant industry has an entire ecosystem dependent on it, since most people employed or engaged with or associated with the restaurant industry are mostly in the unorganized sector/ segment, thus the exact number of people affected might never be known. However, it is certain that a lot of these people will be laid off and many small vendors dependent them vendors would have their earnings affected,” he says. 


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