Increasing prices of diesel, cooking oil, LPG worry them
By Mahitha Owk
Bengaluru: Restaurants in the city are struggling to earn money because of the Covid-19 pandemic. A spike in the prices of LPG, petrol, diesel, and cooking oil has put a question mark over their survival.
“We used to make around Rs 1 lakh a day before the Covid-19 outbreak; it has now come down to nearly 30 percent,” M. Manjunath, assistant manager of Habibi Falafel restaurant, Indiranagar, informed The Observer.
Restaurant owners say they have dismissed most of their staff as the number of customers has decreased.
Karan Hegde, manager of Sri Udupi Park, Indiranagar, said: “Usually, we have 35 working staff but currently we have only seven; we asked the rest of them to not come to work till business is back to normal.”
The industry is not doing any better despite following strict Covid-19 protocols like sanitizing the entire restaurant every day. “We sanitize all tables… just after customers leave,” said Manjunath.
Increased prices of motor fuels, cooking gas and cooking oil is a major concern for the restaurant industry.
“Increase in the price of petrol and diesel will increase the prices of every other commodity. We can’t cut the use of LPG or cooking oil as they are essential commodities for us,” Hegde said.
“I don’t know what the government is doing with all the money we pay as taxes. They anyway are not helping the industry.”
Prasad H.S., the person in charge of Donne Biryani House, Indiranagar, said: “Although the prices of the commodities have risen, we have not increased the price of food in fear of losing customers.”
Murali D, the owner of Ambur Hot Biryani, another restaurant in Indiranagar, said an increase in prices of commodities is causing great concern to his business. “My restaurant was closed for 8 months leading to a loss of five lakh rupees. Even at the time of lockdown, I had to pay 34,000 rent every month and now how will I survive with the increase in prices.”
The industry hasn’t received any support from the government. Owners of eateries have been forced to cut employees’ salaries as their businesses aren’t earning profit.
“This place opened two months back and is running in losses now. How can we expect a salary in such a situation?” said Mukesh Thakur, an employee at Shree Juice Charts and Ice Cream Park, Indiranagar. If the business continues this way, he is worried the place will be shut down.
Thai Chy restaurant manager Mustaf Ahmed said the employees of his restaurant are being paid half of their salaries since the lockdown.
Restaurant associations in Bangalore have been urging the government for help, but the industry has still not received any help.
Karnataka Pradesh Hotel and Restaurants Association secretary Madhukar M. Shetty said: “We met CM Yediyurappa and pleaded with him to waive property tax and not to charge for trade and exercise licences at least for those few months when the lockdown was imposed.” But the government has not provided any help.
Bruhath Bangalore Hotels Association president P.C. Rao said: “I asked CM to do us a favour by not letting BBMP disturb us for a year.” The BBMP demands that the industry pay taxes and renew licences. “We are fed up with asking the government for help.”
“We have spoken to health minister Harsh Vardhan to include hotel employees among frontline workers. Hopefully, it will happen soon,” Rao said.
There still seems to be hope for the industry as people like Shrinkhala Srivastava, a student, believe that restaurants are taking proper precautions and hence are safe to visit. When The Observer asked if he isn’t scared, he replied: “Well, now we all have become immune to Covid-19.”
Srihari Edara, a diner at a restaurant, shared: “All the measures that are prescribed by the government are being followed by restaurants, so I don’t think we need to worry.”
Dinesh Patnaik, another diner, said: “It’s our responsibility to help these businesses; I have recovered with no symptoms, so (have) no fears.”
But with the number of Covid-19 cases rising again, and with the chief minister talking of another lockdown, it seems difficult for the industry to go back to pre-Covid levels.