Night curfew in Delhi: Restaurants stare at uncertain future

·4-min read

New Delhi, Apr 6 (PTI) Just when business was starting to look up after a months-long coronavirus-induced lockdown brought them to their knees, Delhi restaurateurs fear they will soon be back to square one with the city government announcing a night curfew till month-end to stem the resurgence of COVID-19 cases.

The curfew, which will be in force from 10 pm to 5 am, will not only curtail dine-in hours but will also affect home delivery operations, which form a considerable chunk of restaurants' revenue, said Kabir Suri, vice-president of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), on Tuesday.

It is going to be a very difficult time for the sector, he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Delhi government announced the night curfew, effective immediately, until April 30 in view of the rising COVID-19 cases in the city. Only essential services and emergency services are exempted from the curfew.

Delhi recorded 5,100 fresh COVID-19 cases, the highest daily spike so far this year, on Tuesday.

'We somehow survived so far, but with the new guidelines, it seems highly unlikely that we can sustain any longer,' Suri said, even as he assured the government of full support from the restaurant industry.

He said restaurants had just started seeing some 'respectable surge in consumption' which prompted many establishments to rehire staff.

'Now we are left in a lurch,' he lamented.

'Curfew at 10 pm means that we will have to shut our restaurants at 9 pm for people to reach their homes in time. It prohibits dining post 9 pm, and also affects the delivery business that contributes a major chunk of revenue in our business,' Suri explained.

Last year, restaurants in Delhi were shuttered from March to June due to the lockdown, and even when they did open up, they had to operate at 50 per cent capacity as per government guidelines.

While most restaurateurs said they understand the reasoning behind the government decision, they fear it will make survival difficult for many businesses.

Zorawar Kalra, founder of Massive Restaurants Pvt Ltd, said the past year had been very difficult for the 'already beleaguered' food and beverage industry.

'The new measures put in place are understandably the need of the hour but will have a huge impact on sales and on the survivability of the industry as a whole.

'Takeout and delivery alone cannot sustain a restaurant enterprise. Already the restaurants were operating at 50 per cent capacity and now with these measures in place, it is definitely going to affect business in a huge way,' Kalra said.

According to Rohit Aggarwal, director of Lite Bite Foods, restaurants are looking at their business on an everyday basis as it is ideal to keep the operational cost in control.

'All the players are trying their best to break even by adopting various strategies, be it rent on revenue share model or pushing deliveries via special menus or operating through a cloud kitchen,' he said.

The hospitality industry had just started to make some progress but the night curfew will definitely halt it, he said.

Food festival curator Maneesh Srivastava, who had to postpone his four-day food pop-up scheduled to begin later this week due to the night curfew, agreed.

'The F&B industry had started picking up its reigns. The imposition of night curfew is going to be a big blow,' he said.

'After slogging whole day, people prefer to meet family and friends or have informal meetings for dinner. Also, customers prefer dinner and alcohol, which play a major role in deciding where to dine. The curfew also creates more fear and people avoid eating out,' he added.

Popular fast-food chain McDonalds said it would continue to comply with all local and state-level restrictions.

'At McDonald's, we continue to follow the government's directives including compliance with all local and state-level restrictions, wherever applicable.

'The safety and wellness of customers and employees remain the topmost priority for us and we will adhere to the government's guidelines to ensure that,' said North and East spokesperson of McDonald's India.

NRAI's Suri said the association is in constant talks with the Delhi government to seek relief for the restaurant industry.

'We hope they will provide us some immediate relief to survive this second surge of COVID-19 which is worse than the first one,' he said. PTI TRS DIV DIV