Santosh Jindal, Director, Jade Garden Restaurant thinks that India needs an active tourism policy in place that will promote food tourism which will inversely encourage more overseas tourists to taste Indian cuisines. In the absence of such policies the Indian food is not well advertised and still is being considered as dhaba food. He also agrees to the fact that there is not parity between centre and state governments in terms of certain policy approvals favoring restaurant Industry. Thus, talking about the concerns to be addressed in the Indian restaurant industry along with the impact of GST, highway liquor ban and allowing open air spaces Santosh Jindal talks to Restaurant India on the sidelines of 35th NRAI AGM.
Do you think there should be tourism policy to promote food tourism?
This is tourists’ related demand as food is integral part of Indian cuisine policy. Globally, popular places are known for their food but the Indian food and cuisine is not well advertised. It is still considered as a dhaba food. If there will be tourism policy for food tourism then there is a lot of scope to promote Indian food. Food is not only about eating it is the experience. It’s a part of tourism. Simultaneously, appointment of nodal officer in the Tourism ministry had been our long standing demand as we needed a single window clearance for all projects.
Why there is no parity between state and centre when it comes to policy approvals for restaurants?
It was not very welcoming but we have no choice. We want uniform policy all over India in case of hygiene standards that should be same all across. Even the liquor prices should be same all over India. Why one state is charging more and other is less when we say one India it has to be one policy. Food and restaurant is a state subject so we have to get clearances states like Maharashtra government allowing open air spaces.
Was highway liquor ban meant for restaurants?
The highway liquor ban was never meant for restaurants but somehow it came into the net and now the government has cleared the air and we are out of liquor ban. But during that time of course it has affected our business very severely. Some people have lost huge money, those who had deep pockets only those could survive but in the same period many others have closed down their businesses.
How GST has impacted the industry?
GST has actually hit the restaurant industry because we have got a lot of tax problems. We don’t get the input tax credit for the rent that we pay. We have to file multiple returns like VAT and then we have GST. Though, government has many issues to look after apart from this they are steadily realizing that restaurant industry is also big time revenue and employment generator.
How do you see the evolution of open air spaces like terraces for restaurants?
Anywhere in the world you go there is open air space policy. Outside of the restaurants there is open air sitting premise for the view and that is where tourists comes. Sitting inside the restaurant doesn’t offer view of the city to the tourists and that is what the terraces and open air spaces outside the restaurants are meant for. We have to be self regulated to protect the open air space from encroachment but government should also encourage open air spaces for restaurants for promoting tourism. In terms of understanding of open air spaces for restaurants policy Mumbai is very pro-active and other states takes a lot of time to understand. And despite being a capital of the country Delhi is the last one to understand the open air space policy.