With Diwali swiftly approaching, there seems to be some light at the end of the seemingly interminable darkness that has been 2020. There are glimmerings of hope in the Capital’s restaurant business as old and fresh players have begun new ventures.
Chahat Kapoor, owner of Radioactive Café, that opened in Punjabi Bagh earlier this week, says, "Let’s accept the fact that till the vaccine comes, we have to embrace this normal and start living normally while taking all precautions. We took over this property just before the pandemic hit. The site was ready, rentals had to start and keeping the property shut meant more losses. We are hopeful that with the norm of running the business with 50 per cent seating capacity, we will begin to recoup on our investment."
Amit Bagga of Daryaganj restaurants was in a similar situation having signed on the lease for a new outlet in Gurugram, just as the pandemic struck.
"Of course, we had to cease all operations during the lockdown, but once it was allowed, we resumed designing the space, keeping in mind the new safety protocols and social distancing norms, and I am happy to say that we opened that outlet in Ambience Mall, last week," says Bagga, noting that the longer- than-expected gap in opening helped in getting the restaurant staff thoroughly versed in the new hygienic practices.
Chef Harangad Singh, Founder of Parat, a cloud kitchen and catering service that opened post the pandemic, says, "Opening Parat was a decision taken after a lot of thought. Logically, there were two factors: one was to support my fellow chefs, my industry and my own family to fight this unseen situation. Secondly, as a chef it is really important to keep working on new recipes to keep my Food Quotient up and my spirits high. Parat proves that when the going gets tough, the tough get going."
In a similar vein, Riyaaz Amlani, CEO & MD, Impresario Handmade Restaurants, whose SOCIAL brand has seen two outposts launched in Dwarka and Chandigarh in recent weeks, says, "The past six months have been extremely tough for the hospitality industry. As a collective, we have rallied together to help each other and lobbied hard with the government for relief. Now that we have started emerging from lockdown, and our restaurants are slowly reopening with the best safety and hygiene protocols in place, the road to recovery looks long but also promising. With the launch of Dwarka SOCIAL and Elante SOCIAL, we are inviting people to get offline and get social once more."
It does beg the question that how business owners have the confidence to open a new venture in trying times? One owner has an interesting perspective.
"There has always been and shall be in the future what is known as the 'countercyclical' behaviour; in other words, going against the tide and the flow. The pandemic is no exception to this behaviour. There is no doubt that the great majority of the hospitality industry, particularly cafés, restaurants and bars which welcomed dine-in guests and were experiential, have and continue to be seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic," says Kazem Samandari, Executive Chairman of L’Opéra, whose bakery and patisserie chain recently opened a new outlet in Vegas Mall, Dwarka.
"Even in these challenging times, companies who either inaugurated operations just before the pandemic or thereafter, are confident in their business models and see the current disarray as a transient interruption which, they hope will see a happy end in the foreseeable future. It is incumbent on each and every responsible restaurateur to weigh the pros and cons of each operation and location and to make the necessary decisions, which can be any of the three: expand, maintain or close," concludes Samandari. We know which option we prefer.