Summer is generally a sluggish season for hotels and restaurants, and this year, business at eateries seems to be duller than usual. Some who run restaurants blame the summer heat that steals appetite and discourages people from stepping out, while some others attribute the down-slide in sales to school vacations and the elections.
“Over the past couple of months, there has been a 15 to 20 per cent fall in sales, especially during the lunch hours,” says Soneelam Chodha, who started Queen’s at Shrungar Complex, 40 years ago.
“It’s so hot, especially around noon; I wouldn’t go out to eat either, if I had to,” she declares, adding that there’s been an increase in the sale of cool drinks and requests for ‘parcels’ — the latter mainly among corporate customers. “They have ACs in their offices; we don’t,” she reasons.
But air conditioners might not entirely do the trick, it seems, at least not at Shree Sagar, near Vijayanagar. “ACs don’t make much of a difference,” says Ganesh, an employee. “The weather just seems to keep people in the comfort of their homes.”
And if one is to go by Harsha, who works at the Indiranagar branch of KFC, fast food chains have been hit too. “People often come here to grab a quick bite. But when they take their children out for lunch during their summer holidays, they choose restaurants that cater to a different palate,” he opines.
“Since vacations have started, a lot of our usual customers have gone out of station and our lunch crowd has decreased,” adds Dinesh Kumar of the Pizza Hut next door.
However, there are some restaurants, especially the South Indian self-service ones, that report no change. “We still get our usual lunch crowd,” says an Adayar Anand Bhavan (Indiranagar) employee under condition of anonymity.
At Nisarga Gardens, Infantry Road, too, Prashanth who mans the cash counter claims that though the lunch crowd has thinned out owing to the elections, there hasn’t been a drastic change in sales.
P C Rao, secretary of Bruhat Bengaluru Hotels Association, tells City Express that the overall depreciation in the hotel/restaurant business in Bangalore has increased to 20 per cent this year from the standard 15 per cent.
“A number of factors are responsible for it — long weekends; the exam season; the election season as corporate events and parties reduce during this period; and weather and pollution levels,” he says. According to him the high pollution levels and weather conditions have kept tourists away from the city as well.
“And it’s not just Bangalore, people avoid Mangalore, Chennai and other nearby cities too. So they’d rather skip this entire region,” he adds.
Still, there are some restaurants, he says, that are considering doing away with their air conditioning systems.
“Even if restaurants use ACs for one or two months, they have to charge customers with service tax of 4.97 per cent all year long in addition to the 14.9 per cent VAT. This is not feasible, so some restaurants in Mangalore have removed ACs. But in Bangalore, with its dust and pollution, they’d lose out on customers if they followed suit. Here, ACs aren’t luxuries any more, they’re necessities — even some Darshinis with open ACs are coming up now,” he says.
Rao adds that the association has filed a court petition requesting that service tax on AC restaurants be cancelled.
(With inputs from Chetana Divya Vasudev, Veena Carmel and ShriKrishnan Ram)