KOCHI: Hotels and restaurants in the state have finally resumed dine-in services with 50 per cent occupancy. It had been a long-pending demand of the hoteliers, who had faced huge financial crisis due to the pandemic. With the reopening of educational institutions and commercial establishments, people have started reclaiming their lives slowly. Several hotels and restaurants in the state are taking measures
to make the customers feel at ease.
While many fine-dining restaurants offer seating based on individual reservations rather than walk-ins, they have halved their seating capacity. They have made arrangements for the families to sit, keeping one-metre distance between chairs. Unnikrishnan NP, who reopened his restaurant The Yellow Chilli during the weekend, says, “We are getting a good response and business is picking up. Many customers stepped out of their homes to dine-in with their families after we resumed the service.”
He says they have taken the necessary steps to prevent any spread of the infection. “We have replaced cloth napkins with serviettes and switched to disposable menus which we keep on each table. We also give customers notices with safety precautions to be taken at the restaurant. Resuming dine-in has brought cheer to the customers who have long been waiting for the full restaurant experience,” shares Unnikrishnan.
Many restaurants and hotels in Kochi are also seeing an increase in customer footfall after several months. “We are being able to do brisk business during the lunch as customers have started coming. Though we had takeaways and home deliveries, it didn’t benefit us much. Since dine-in has resumed, we hope to make up for the losses incurred,” said Sijo Thomas, manager at Ceylon Bake House.
Many hotels and restaurants have been facing a shortage of workers. Sijo says, “We haven’t retained full staff as many of them left the state after only takeaways and home deliveries were allowed. It will take another week for the restaurants to function in a full-fledged manner with adequate staff.”
Meanwhile, many restaurant owners say it is a positive sign that sales are picking up and they hope things will get back to normal soon.
Restaurants of Rajadhani Group of Hotels that were closed for months are also witnessing an increase in footfall. “Even during the hartal on Monday, there was a good number of takeaway and online orders. From seating arrangement to continuous sanitisation of common places, we are taking care of everything. Every five minutes, sanitisation of the restaurant premises is ensured with the help of a dedicated staff deployed for the purpose,” said Akhil A Vijay, corporate assistant general manager of sales and marketing, Rajadhani Group of Hotels.
KHRA’s online dreams
Moitheenkutty Haji, state president of Kerala Hotel and Restaurant Association, says customers are happy now that dine-in services has resumed. It has also helped about 30% of small eateries in the state who couldn’t afford online delivery services and remained shut. So, the majority of them were remaining shut down. “Due to the popularity of online food deliveries during the pandemic, food was being sold in an unauthorised manner, which is still going unchecked. We are grateful to the government for permitting dine-in services. We also hope the government will support us through MSMEs. Otherwise, we will be forced to buy frozen products from other states,” said Moitheenkutty.
The association launched a food delivery app Rezoy last year, which has already garnered a good response from customers. “Though it was launched in Kochi and Thrissur on a trial basis, we got positive feedback. So, we plan to extend the food delivery platform to all the districts by next year,” he added.
The new dining experience
50% customers allowed at a time
Fine-dining restaurants offer seating based on reservations
Seats kept at one-metre distance
Some restaurants switched to disposable menus and replaced cloth napkins with serviettes
Some restaurants keep dedicated staff for sanitising dining areas