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Shut for close to 2 months, Delhi’s restaurants prepare to open doors on Monday – with some curbs

Shut for close to two months, restaurants across Delhi prepare to reopen from Monday – albeit with a number of curbs in place. While they look forward to resuming services, they are also apprehensive of how no liquor, staggered timings, and opening on a trial basis will impact footfall.

According to the guidelines issued by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), restaurants will be allowed to function at 50 per cent capacity. The order states that this will be done on a trial basis and that if there is a spike in cases, restaurants, as well as markets and malls, will be shut soon.

Restaurants will be operational from 10 am to 8 pm, and alcohol consumption is not permitted under the order.

Anurag Katriar, President of National Restaurants’ Association of India, said, “With time, we have learnt that opening with restricted capacity means no money… but it is the only way of kick-starting the business.”

However, on the fact that restaurants might shut again if cases rise, he said, “There are a lot of costs involved in restarting business. It is not fair to single out an entire industry. If a particular restaurant is flouting norms, then the government can penalise them. And this announcement is also a deterrent in the minds of the people.”

Regarding salaries of employees, he said most restaurants had paid salaries, with some cuts. Safety will be of paramount concern and many restaurants have gotten their employees vaccinated.

Nitin Kapoor, general manager of Pebble Street in New Friends Colony, said the administration is yet to take a call on when the restro-bar will start functioning.

He said, “It will be slow, like last year. If things are alright and the Covid situation improves, we expect to recover from losses in a year or two.” They were making only 5-10 per cent of the usual revenue through delivery.

Since many restro-bars depend heavily on liquor sales, they are contemplating the opening dates. Ngawang, manager of Depot 48 in Greater Kailash, said they might reopen in a week: “We will take some time to prepare before we reopen. We are yet to have a discussion regarding this.”

Meanwhile, fine-dining restaurants had another concern: Most of their customers step out only for dinner during the summers. Ashok Thakur, manager of Zen Restaurant in Connaught Place, said, “People barely come out for lunch during summers. And most have dinner after 8 pm. If we have to shut at 8 pm, the restaurant will only be open till 7 pm.” He said it has been difficult to sustain solely on delivery as CP is not a residential area.

Surender Sharma, manager of Relax Restaurant in Lajpat Nagar, said most of their staff went home during the lockdown and they called them once the new guidelines were issued. They hope to open by Monday.

Most restaurants, however, said were not too worried about staff shortage as they will be functioning at a 50 per cent capacity and, hence, won’t need all their employees.

Zorawar Kalra, founder of Massive Restaurants, which includes brands like Farzi Cafe and Pa Pa Ya, said, “Over the weekend in Gurgaon, the response has been way better than expected. We expect a similar response in Delhi. There is also going to be an element of revenge consumption. People are raring to go out after the eight-week lockdown.”

He was hopeful that the timings would eventually be extended since dinner time is crucial for the industry: “This will help all stakeholders – patrons, employees, restaurants, and the government. Longer operating hours means reservations can be spread out over a longer time, thereby, making social distancing even easier.”

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