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Worst-hit during pandemic, feel targeted: Restaurants on dine-in ban

With dine-in at Delhi’s restaurants closed from Tuesday in a bid to contain a surge in Covid cases, stakeholders in the industry say they feel singled out and targeted. As per the new restrictions announced by the Delhi government on Monday, only home delivery and takeaways will be allowed.

Kabir Suri, co-founder and director, Azure Hospitality, who is currently the president of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), questioned how markets can be allowed to remain open while buses and Metros operate at full capacity, even as restaurants — which were already running at 50% capacity — have been asked to shut completely.

“This will lead to widespread unemployment because no one knows how long this will go on,” Suri said, adding that the industry employs lakhs of people at various levels, and contributes significantly to the GDP.

“World over, the key is to follow social distancing norms, get boosters and go on with life, but each time there is a surge in infections, the hospitality industry is singled out,” he added.

Riyaaz Amlani, CEO and MD of Impresario Handmade Restaurants, which runs around 20 restaurants in the capital including Smoke House Deli and Social, said, “I would like to be enlightened on how this is going to help — given that we are already following 50% seating. Restaurants are tired of taking it on the chin just for optics.”

Late on Monday evening, the NRAI issued a statement saying: “Right from the onset of Covid, the restaurant sector has been one of the worst-hit. We were the first ones to be shut and almost the last ones to restart during the first and second lockdowns and I reckon that this third wave is going to be even worse than last year. We somehow survived so far, but with the new guidelines announced today in Delhi, it seems highly unlikely that we can sustain any longer.”

There are 95,187 eateries in Delhi. Out of these, 32,777 are organised restaurants (with FSSAI number and GST) and the revenue generated per year from these is Rs 31,132 crore. Also, the dine-out frequency in the city is maximum, six times per month, compared to the national average of 4.5 times, whereas takeaways/delivery are meagre. All of this is going to be at a standstill once again, the statement adds.

Even as the order does not specify any duration for the dine-in restrictions, their only hope is it doesn’t last too long. Zorawar Kalra, founder-director of Massive Restaurants, which includes brands such as Farzi Cafe, Pa Pa Ya and Bo Tai, said, “We are hopeful that if hospitalisations and deaths are not increasing, these restrictions can be quickly removed as they are extremely debilitating for the already beleaguered industry and will result in a major increase in permanent closures and unemployment in the sector.”

The financial crunch that such shutdowns lead them to has many stressed. Just two days ago, the NRAI had written to mall owners and landlords to waive off rentals for the duration of pandemic-related curbs.

Suri said that while deliveries are allowed, the issue of e-passes for delivery staff is still to be streamlined and they are going to request the government to reconsider this dine-in ban or not let this carry on beyond a week or so.

Priyank Sukhija, founder of First Fiddle F&B Pvt Ltd, which owns restaurants like Lord Of The Drinks, Warehouse Cafe, Dragonfly and Lazeez Affaire, said, “Ever since night curfew and weekend curfew were announced in Delhi, we have been as good as shut. And we do understand we have to live with it for another month or so. When these restrictions are lifted, I sincerely hope the government comes forward with some kind of tangible support package for the industry.”



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