The restaurant business in Uttar Pradesh incurred a loss of Rs 100 crore on a daily basis during the first three phases of nationwide lockdown – between March 25 and May 17.
Even as the government has now allowed the restaurants to deliver food online, but with the business restricted to home delivery, lack of workforce and unavailability of meat the industry continues to slump with no early signs of revival. By the current trend, 40 per cent of the restaurants are likely to wind up operations by year-end.
Uttam Kashyap, who owns two non-vegetarian restaurants, in Lucknow, is unable to resume business again as most of his staff have returned to their native places due to the lockdown and by restricting menu only to the vegetarian items, he will not be able to earn the daily expenses.
Speaking to India Today TV, he said, “The losses incurred due to the lockdown are huge and the survival looks very difficult in the future. At both my restaurants, I had a staff of over 25 people but now only four or five workers are left.
“Most of the workers were from Malda district in West Bengal and they have returned to their native place. I am finding it difficult to even pay a salary to the remaining staff because there was no business for two months. Now we can deliver online but my restaurants are famous only for non-vegetarian food but it cannot be made available because the meat shops are shut. Therefore, I will not open my eating points till there is a ban on meat sales,” Uttam Kashyap said.
“If the ban on meat is not lifted at earliest then we will not be able to survive. We are paying rents, electricity bills but there is no income. If the slump continues in the restaurant industry then we might have to shut our business. We also need workforce to start operations which is not available,” he said.
Arun Ahuja, manager of the famous Royal Cafe in Lucknow, said, “We have three restaurants in Lucknow with a staff of over 50 people. More than 50 per cent of the workforce has returned to their home districts because they were finding it difficult to survive in the lockdown and it if difficult to say when they will return. If I talk about our Hazratganj outlet, we used to sell food items worth more than Rs 1 lakh every day. Most of the people used to come to relish our chaat. For two months, there was no work and we could only give a salary till March despite no business to our workers.”
“Lockdown was necessary because it is important to battle the coronavirus outbreak and the measures taken by the government are welcoming. However, it is highly unlikely that the revival of the restaurant industry will happen anytime soon. We are taking all the necessary precautions, including sanitisation and our staff is using all the safety gear. Online delivery has started but people are afraid of ordering food due to the fear of coronavirus. This fear might prevail for a long time which is a matter of worry,” said Ahuja.
Meanwhile Manish, the owner of a famous eating point at Patrakarpuram in Gomti Nagar area, said, “The restaurant industry will never revive through online business and it is difficult to predict when the crisis will end because the cases of Coronavirus are constantly rising. Ahead of the lockdown my daily sale was over Rs 40,000 but there was no business for two months. Most of the staff including cooks have returned home. We have got very few orders online because the maximum food items we sell are non-vegetarian dishes and there is no meat available.”
Speaking to India Today TV, Garish Oberoi, the president of the Federation of Hotel & Restaurants Association of India said, “All the restaurants in UP remained shut in the first three phases of the lockdown and the industry has incurred a loss of Rs 100 crore every day due to the shutdown which is the cumulative estimated sale in over 2 lakh eating joints in the state. The restaurant industry directly employs over 10 lakh people in UP alone. The impact of the lockdown is extremely adverse and 40 per cent of the restaurants may wind up by the end of this year.”
“The online delivery started on Thursday during the fourth phase of the lockdown and it will not give us any help because most of the online orders we get are for the dinner but we cannot deliver post 7 pm according to the state government guidelines so all the restaurants will have to shut their services by 6 pm. Lakhs of workers and staff across the state have returned home and the workforce crisis is the biggest challenge. The government must waive off the license fee of the restaurants. Most of the restaurants are on rented property and as the cases are constantly rising we don’t know when the situation will normalise. Therefore some economic package and help should be announced to benefit the restaurant industry by the state government. Meat should also be made available because many restaurants rely on non-vegetarian food for sale,” said Oberoi.