BENGALURU: There is a need to keep up with the times. As industry grows and work cultures evolve — as they already have — with advances in technology, logistical scaffolds need to evolve too. There is no longer a 9am to 5pm job culture in place. In most cases, work spills over long-laid-down and strictly-followed working hours. Several sectors work through the nights in shifts. But the food service sector — mainly the restaurants and food outlets — has not been able to adjust to the change, leaving the night-time workers little choice except for cloud kitchens to march onwards on their stomachs.
A case needs to be made to support food outlets and restaurants to remain open 24X7. It will allow the graveyard shifts a wider option to choose from. In turn, to support that, public transport systems and metro rail services also need to ply commuters through the night, although with skeletal services considering the much smaller crowd needing them.
On June 29, 2022, the then home minister Araga Jnanendra said hotels and restaurants located in important and select locations — like near bus depots, railway stations and inter-state bus terminals — where there is higher public movement, could be kept open round the clock. But no written orders materialised.
In the absence of formal orders, apprehensions of keeping such outlets 24X7 were tied to security issues over continuing food operations through the night. Consequently, many among the non-liquor-serving restaurants which can remain open until 1 am, close by 11.30 pm, leaving cloud kitchens as the only option for graveyard shift workers.
Security is not the only reason. Restaurant owners are also wary about rising operational costs if they remain open 24X7. It would basically mean adding one more eight-hour shift to their schedule, while remaining unsure about the size of nocturnal clientele to cover the costs through returns.
However, keeping restaurants open through the night, in the cities — starting with Bengaluru and replicating the models in other cities of the state — would provide the much-needed heft to support a globalised work culture as well as to the city life, potentially translating into more revenue.
One of the main benefits would also include increasing employment. It would improve the unemployment situation in Karnataka, which at present is at 2.3 per cent.
Besides, efficient conduct of businesses using smarter marketing initiatives, and keeping focus on the convenience of night-time workers as the unique selling point, can ensure more than covering additional costs incurred through round-the-clock operations.
The issue of security is two-sided. One is about the fear: being vulnerable to anti-social elements even as a manpower-short police force is stretched to ensure law and order. The second could turn out more assuring: restaurants remaining open round the clock would mean more public movement at night, which can inhibit criminal activity to a large extent.
The Bengaluru police top brass, while admitting to manpower shortage, is relying on what it refers to as “force multipliers” for law enforcement in the law & order and traffic domains. This employs a range of hi-tech equipment which can enable a minimal night-time presence of police personnel to maintain tighter surveillance on unwanted activities.
Basically, keeping non-liquor-serving restaurants and skeletal public transport modes open through the night for the convenience of workers and public movement round the clock is as doable as it can be wished.
What we need is a mindset change from all involved — the public, the restaurant and food outlet owners, and most importantly, the powers that be in the government.
If things do work out — and they need to be worked out — the beneficial outcome would help contribute to the food service market in India touching the targeted $125 billion by 2029 from $70 billion in 2023. Besides, it would add to the nightlife in the cities of the state, which in turn could improve the potential for tourism too.
It is time to add nights to the days, and the days to the nights — but only if we find possibilities towards it, rather than look for reasons against it.
Deputy Resident Editor, Karnataka