Even as doctors and public health experts fretted in the last week over the visuals of people in Delhi- NCR shopping and eating out (despite the 50 per cent cap on seating), according to restaurateurs and bar owners, this is the week that will really be an indicator of how quickly the F&B industry is going to bounce back. And that’s because the Delhi government has allowed the sale of alcoholic beverages from today as well as extended the operating hours for restaurants from 8:00pm up to 10:00pm.
Avantika Sinha Bahl, Owner of Mai Bao and Kampai, says, "We opened on Thursday and response has been better than expected. We were losing on dinner service with the 8:00pm restriction, and so the hope now is that footfall will be more promising in the coming days."
Saurabh Luthra, Founder of Romeo Lane, says that the Sunday announcement was a wow moment, "as last week, business started coming in but given that we could only serve food within limited hours, it was a very tough situation".
"The complete experience of dining out is incomplete without drinks and given the work scenario, people mostly step out post 7:00pm only. With the serving hours and liquor serving permission in place, we are looking forward to good days ahead," he says.
Indeed, while international conglomerates like McDonald’s and the like saw encouraging footfall from last Monday itself, the stand-alone restaurant section has been much more cautious. Kanishk Tuteja, Founder 1 Oak, Nukkad and we Qutub, says, “I had opened only one outlet of mine out of three, considering without liquor and limited serving hours, my other two places would have seen more losses than gains. Now I am happy as we will be able to open all three outlets.”
Similarly, Akshay Anand of Ophelia that isn’t opening till later this week, says, “The first week’s business was not too slow at the places that had opened, but we plan to open by Wednesday, so that we can welcome back our clients with the complete experience of our outlet.”
For Amit Rekhi, Partner, Music & Mountains, the past week has been very rewarding and encouraging. “We did not feel the pressure of too many footfalls as we have been very careful with the number of covers, which is 50 per cent capacity. Despite that, it was a wonderful feeling to welcome back our regulars. The fact that people are feeling comfortable at our restaurant makes us hopeful that we will be able to serve better.”
Amit Bagga, Founder of Daryaganj, is even more hopeful, noting, "We have seen an overall 60 per cent recovery since the last time we were fully operational in March. Our delivery sales are steady and dine-in sales have been a bonus; both are now contributing 50-50 to our sales. Also, as we are a foodfocussed brand, liquor doesn’t make much of a difference to us, but now with the extended time and liquor being allowed, I am optimistic that things will improve as this increases the APC."
Summing up the hopes for the industry is restaurateur Zorawar Kalra, who says, "This is a very positive move for an already beleaguered industry, and is in sync with what other states are allowing. This will now ensure more and more restaurants open up as with these relaxations the viability of opening a restaurant no longer remains a question mark."
"This also helps in added revenue for the exchequer and the industry, but more importantly it will positively affect employment in the sector. For now, all patrons and restaurants need to ensure responsible consumption and service in order to ensure there is no spike in cases. It is essential for the survival of this industry which is the second largest employer of human capital in the country," he added.