While in simpler times, one couldn’t wait to leave office to get home to loved ones, the post-COVID reality has seen a complete paradigm shift.
While office- goers continue to grapple with the hurdles of working from home, frontline workers like doctors and nurses have to live lives isolated from their families, stuck between shuttling from treatment centres to dormitories and hostels.
Yet, another overlooked segment has had to live with the same restrictions: the chefs and other staff of your favourite eateries.
Since the pandemic began, restaurateurs have had to come up with all sorts of measures to isolate the staff at their establishments from possible infection, in order to safeguard them as well as their diners, and the most common form this has taken is arranging shared accommodations for all the staff of an outlet.
“As soon as the pandemic rolled around, and even before the lockdown and other restrictions were announced, we began finding shared accommodation for three to seven boys for each outlet, depending on that restaurant’s volume, and ensured that it was close enough that they could walk to work so that they didn’t need to use public transport.
We also provided each accommodation with a stove so that they could cook and a TV so that they weren’t bored when at home,” says Kabir Jeet Singh, CEO & Co-founder at Burger Singh.
Indeed, Burger Singh also created its own COVID tracking app to ensure that its staff can avoid any case clusters and avoid coming in contact with any infected person, and with every staff member being screened for COVID-19 every ten days.
The employees undergo COVID antibody tests regularly, and the company keeps track of employee movement through an internal app to reduce the risk of infection. The company isn’t alone in this, with several restaurant chains having taken similar measures.
“We have applied the appropriate SOPs to respond to the specific requirements. These included, in the early stages of the pandemic and lockdown, the full isolation and confinement of the production and support crew in the production facility of L’Opéra,” says Kazem Samandari, Executive Chairman of L’Opéra, adding, “The teams were both working and living in the same building and were totally isolated from external individuals. The deliveries to the logistics department were taking place contactless and all supplies were dilig ently cleaned and sanitised.”
This also meant that the L’Opéra production facility itself is deepcleaned several times a day. “These specific measures apply not only at L’Opéra’s production centre but also in all its outlets and obviously, also for the entire distribution infrastructure comprising the drivers and the fleet,” saids Samandari.
“After the lockdown we called our kitchen guys back from their villages and divided them into two teams. We took common accommodation for both the groups and asked them not to travel anywhere else except to the restaurant for work and any emergencies. All basics were provided at the accommodation. We kept two teams so that if one person in one team gets infected and that team needs to be quarantined, the other team can continue working,” adds Amit Bagga, co-founder, Daryaganj restaurants.
Speaking to a Burger Singh employee, who wishes to remain unnamed, it is clear that kitchen staff appreciate the need for these measures.
“Earlier it was difficult to not be able to move around as freely as we once did, but then it’s happening all over the country and we realise that we all have to play our part to help end this disease. Pareshaani puraa duniya jhel raha hai (the whole world is facing difficulties). The accommodation provided is comfortable and well equipped and it’s become easier to get to work, so we are grateful for that.”