Rajkot: Most restaurants that have resumed operations after Unlock 4.0 are experiencing losses and showing no signs of revival of business.
“Out of 70% of restaurants earning well before the lockdown, only 30% can run their business after unlock 4.0; the rest have either shut down or are making losses. In August, restaurants were able to earn better and revive around 60% of their business that existed before the Covid-19 lockdown. But due to the rise in cases in September, they are incurring losses again,” Shekhar Mehta, president, Food and Beverage Association, Rajkot, informed The Observer.
Some restaurants have not yet reopened. Customers’ apprehensions regarding health and safety measures is not the sole reason for the decline in the restaurant industry’s earnings. Factors such as operational costs and rents also contribute to the issue.
“Increased rents, employee expenses, reduced number of customers, students going back home and other overhead expenses are some of the reasons contributing to the revenue shortfall. During June, we tied up with Swiggy and Zomato. Later, to ensure safety protocols, we developed our own application and appointed separate staff for same,” said Rinkesh Suthar, assistant general manager, Saraza restaurant, Rajkot.
“Saraza takes the responsibility of its 150 employees’ meals, medical needs, accommodation and health security. No employee was laid off due to Covid-19,” he added.
Established restaurants were able to revive their businesses. But the newly established ones have not gained customers’ trust and hence suffered even more.
“Earlier, a minimum of five to seven families visited the restaurant daily. At present, we have begun our operations but hardly two families have visited daily in the past 15 days,” said Romi Paaji, owner, The Great Punjabi Dhabba.
“One month ago, when the restaurant was about to begin its dine-in services, the employees migrated to their respective hometowns due to which we had to appoint new staff. Moreover, during the lockdown, only 50% payment was granted to staff,” said Balli Paaji, partner, The Great Punjabi Dhabba, which opened in February, a month before the lockdown.
However, a few firmly established restaurants have been able to revive their businesses.
Raj Kukadiya, owner of La Pino’z Pizza, said: “We are neither experiencing a revenue fallback nor a decline in customer visits since the day we reopened the restaurant. On the first Wednesday, after we restarted dine-in services, the day’s earnings were Rs 2 lakh. There is not any major difference from pre-Covid days.”
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs first allowed takeaway services and then full-fledged dine-in services.
Crispy Buns owner Jenil Lakhan, who has shut down his eatery, said: “I tried to reopen my restaurant but was unable to do so because of the heavy losses and high rental charges. I cannot commit a mistake by reopening in such a situation.”
“Due to the rise in demand of employees and shortage of labour as most of them migrated back to their hometowns, the salary paid to us is 10% more than it was paid earlier,” said Raman Paaji, employee, The Great Punjabi Dhabba.
V Mehta, an employee at a café, said: “The café earned zero income in the past one and half months. Due to this, it has been sold. Out of the ten employees, seven employees laid off.”
According to a TOI report, in Rajkot, deliveries have come down from 50,000 a day to 5,000.
People are reluctant to visit restaurants, leading to the closure of eateries that have a star rating of less than three. People have stopped visiting cafés and street food vendors too.
Harsh Tilva, a diner at Saraza, shared: “During pre-Covid times, we used to visit a restaurant thrice a week. Now, we are unable to visit the restaurant due to safety concerns. This is the first time after six months I have visited a restaurant, and opted for a four-star restaurant.”
Dilip Bhutiya, a customer at Let’s Eat Restaurant, said: “I visited the restaurant last in February. Even though there are no Covid cases in our area, I am not comfortable with the new normal. I don’t trust the safety measures taken by restaurants.”
With people reluctant to eat out, the future looks bleak for the restaurant industry.