After a long wait of almost six months, Mumbaiites can now visit their favourite restaurants again. Last week, Maharashtra government announced SOPs for reopening restaurants across Maharashtra. Restaurateurs and chefs in Mumbai are elated, but are treading with caution.
This decision will encourage restaurant owners to re-employ their laid off staff, and will revive the economy and a sense of ‘normalcy’. Zorawar Kalra, Founder & Managing Director, Massive Restaurants Pvt. Ltd. thinks that the government’s decision is positive. “The beleaguered industry, which has been hit the hardest, needed this desperately for its survival,” he says.
Rachel Goenka, CEO & Founder of The Chocolate Spoon Company is thrilled, but wants more clarity. “We still await the Standard Operating Procedures advisory to be issued. We also are seeking clarity on the way forward with regards to excise fees as well as plans by the Maharashtra Electricity Board / Tata Power / Adani Power on excessive bills raised in April to September,” she says.
A major hurdle that the industry is facing today is to bring back its workforce from their hometowns. Only when the majority of the staff is back, will the eateries become fully operational. While this is surely a major relief for the F&B industry, Chef Rahul Akerkar, Founder & Managing Partner, Qualia Hospitality LLP, reminds everyone to be cautious. “We are peaking right now in terms of new COVID-19 cases in Mumbai, so one needs to be very cautious and wary of doing too much too soon.”
He adds that the occupancy rate of 50 per cent should not be stipulated and, instead, social distancing of 1 to 2 metres between the tables may be a good idea. “The other thing that should be encouraged is to allow open-air or outdoor dining, like all over the world. The BMC doesn’t permit this, which is ironic, considering half of Mumbai transacts its business on the streets today, in any case!” adds Chef Akerkar.
“We look forward to reopening Lake View Café soon and are excited to welcome our patrons back. We will be offering a touch-less & contactless service, yet thoughtfully customized dining experiences,” says Bhanu Gupta, Director of Food & Beverage, Renaissance Mumbai & Lakeside Chalet – Mumbai, Marriott Executive Apartments. The industry is quite positive that people will visit the restaurant again. “Trust is the key element. If patrons trust a brand and the team, then I am confident they will return,” says Chef Ananda Solomon, Founder, Thai Naam by Ananda.
Riyaaz Amlani, CEO & MD, Impresario Handmade Restaurants says that dining out will no longer be on a whim and that it is likely to go back to a time when people dined out to celebrate a special occasion.
“They will expect more from their restaurant experience and we will have to work harder. A restaurant meal for a customer will be more about the experience now,” says Amlani. This means that that the menu will be simplified, also because social distancing will be followed in the kitchens as well.
Chef Akerkar too thinks that people will be cautious, even if they really do want to get out.
Kalra, on the other hand, is absolutely positive that guests will revisit restaurants soon. “I think Mumbai will witness revenge consumption. People have been locked in for a long time and are desperate to get out and enjoy a meal at their favourite restaurant,” he says, adding that It is now imperative for restaurants and patrons alike to act responsibly by following all the guidelines and ensure that this move is a mega success.
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