This year’s festive season would be the moment of truth for the restaurant businesses in India after the dampened show last year. That’s also because due to Covid, a lot of changes have been witnessed in the f&b ecosystem like moving from brick and mortar space to asset-light cloud kitchens. Now having battled the two waves of the pandemic and understood the behaviour of consumers in the new normal, restaurants ranging from fine dining to QSRs are hoping to get their mojo back to some extent this festive season as the rate of vaccination continues to go up even as the fear of third-wave lingers on in the background.
Many reservation and restaurant tech platforms have recovered approx 60 percent of its business compared to pre-Covid times. Delhi, Bangalore and Ahmedabad are moving fastest towards normalcy with a 70 percent recovery rate projected to be achieved in this festive quarter, followed by Kolkata, Chennai, Jaipur and Hyderabad with a 55 percent recovery rate. Mumbai and Pune that opened up last week have seen a promising 10 fold increase in Diner count compared to the previous week’s numbers, according to a report published.
“We are witnessing bolder dining patrons primarily because 80 percent of the Bangalore population have got their first dose of vaccination and so have the hoteliers and restaurateurs. Also, November being auspicious for weddings, we have already been witnessing inquiries for small gatherings and occasions. We hope this last quarter to be a productive season with 35 percent more sales as compared to previous year,” Abdeali Zoomkawala, Head of F&B Operations and Events, Oakwood Premier Prestige Bangalore said.
There is definitely some sense of optimism for this year’s festive season. While the third wave’s fear is there but it seems the vaccination programme is well on its way to take care of the situation. If this continues, most of the restaurant owners are expecting growth over 2019 levels.
Commenting on the same, Debaditya Chaudhury, Managing Director of Chowman, Oudh 1590 & Chapter 2 said, “Last year was quite difficult because people were still trying to comprehend the brunt of the pandemic. In fact, the festival season was spent by people behind closed doors. But this year, there’s a huge change as people feel much hopeful and everything is almost back to normal. With proper safety protocols assurance, the common mass has already made a huge difference to our sales. Hence, I am pretty much sure that we will be taking the industry by the storm this festive season.”
Chaudhury further commented that currently it’s better to focus on the home delivery section. The pandemic has made online ordering the new norm in respect to the ease of customers. “Moreover, right now, as the IPL season is on, home delivery is going to be at the peak. However, we are also keeping the dine-in at par with the delivery. We are assuming that almost a 25 percent hike will be happening both for the delivery and dine-in sales,” he added.
Kabir Azhar, Director of Aminia feels that people have become much more conscious about the covid outbreak. Instead of dining outs, they prefer enjoying their food sitting back at home. “So the business trend is that we have started full-fledged home delivery from our end. We are taking care of the best safety measures and maintaining all protocols to ensure the safest delivery. Our restaurant is open for dine-in as we sanitize each and every single thing every now and then,” he added.
Apparel shopping and eating out have always been the top indicators of how well the consumer sentiment has been during the festive season. Viva Hospitality, which owns the quick-service restaurant brand Imly, sees the confidence coming back to a fair extent this year in comparison to last year as consumers have returned to eating out. The restaurant company has recovered around 60 percent while its bar concept called Duty Free has got 80 percent recovery done in comparison to just 30 percent last year from pre-covid levels.
“There is a continued positive response to local specialty dishes, upcoming local talent for music focused on DJ-led events, big uptake in liquor sales along with celebratory shots, and most importantly, bigger party groups and corporate events are going to lead the festive sales,” shared Akanksha Chaudhary, Asst Director Sales & Marketing, JSM Corporation.
However, all depends on the third wave hit, and if that happens the consumption pattern will take a dip during the festive season as people won’t celebrate the time with a sense of optimism and would prefer again not to move out to eat or meet relatives or friends.
A comparison of mobility trends in India with the five major economies of the world (except China) shows that workplace mobility among Asian countries (both Japan and India) is better compared to the other high growth countries. However, mobility for restaurants, shopping centres, movie theatres among others is still lower in India and Japan compared to other countries where this has returned to almost pre-pandemic levels, or higher as in case of Germany and France.
India will have to do well to accelerate its pace of vaccination, with a special focus on the laggard regions, if it wants to pre-empt any potential disruption from the pandemic in the forthcoming festive season.