The Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns over the past two years affected every industry across the globe, but the impact on the restaurant business industry was catastrophic. Restaurants were decimated, food service providers couldn’t stay afloat which challenged outlets to shut shop. But mostly the ill-effect were seen in restaurants situated in the tourist destinations as there was absolutely no business.
As per The Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI), owing to financial losses during the first wave, almost 40 percent of restaurants in India have shut down permanently. And about 20 percent haven’t bounced back fully and the remaining continue to run in losses. But things are less worrying now. Those in leisure destinations like Goa, Himachal, Rajasthan etc are now seeing revenues rise as people from neighbouring cities are flocking there for staycations giving revenues in larger ticket sizes.
Since the decline of the third wave, and further relaxation of travel restrictions across states, people are looking forward to taking much needed vacations with family and friends or even some time off alone. The concept of cloud kitchens has also gained a lot of steam, with many foodservice providers exploring it as a possible cost saving alternative to dine in restaurants. But, luckily for restaurants that are residing in tourist destinations need not to think of tweaking and reinventing while they are happily serving the patrons again, right on the table serving fresh as it was during pre pandemic days. We caught up with four such restaurants situated in the most demanded tourist destinations in India to know how far they have come from the ‘Covid-effect’
Wake and Bake, Shimla
Welcoming the crowd with its bright yellow windows Wake and Bake has always been a hotspot for tourists in Shimla. The café with three seating areas, one being the rooftop is known for its continental and Italian dishes served with the view of mall road in Shimla. Before the pandemic, the café occasionally hosted local book clubs and chess clubs along with impromptu jam sessions and was a perfect spot to catch a break for the tourists who get tired of strolling around mall road. Like all the restaurants and cafes in Shimla, Wake and Bake too faced a hit during the peak but remained few of the restaurants that did not shut doors amid crisis. Now when Shimla is gearing up to welcome the flock for the upcoming summer season, Wake and Bake is all set to serve the best.
“From February onwards we are seeing a good number of traction. We have completely recovered from the pandemic induced losses and are ready to make good money this season. Last year we did good business but suffered from staff crunch. But I’m happy to inform that we are now fully operational with a complete staff and menu list. Yes, weekends are our busiest days where mostly we see family travelling from Punjab and Chandigarh,” the owner of the cafe informed.
Café Le Pondicherry
Determined holidaymakers are arriving increasingly frequent in the city of Pondicherry. Dilip Kapur who runs two of Puducherry’s most popular hotels, The Promenade and heritage hotel, Le Dupleix launched a café, which he runs with Ruth Sequeira. Appropriately enough for a space that attempts to recapture the glamour of the little French town, it’s called ‘Le Pondicherry.’
“People want a holiday, a little escape. They are looking for that French Pondi, well more French tropics, with space to relax,” he says, “a place with great croissants!” He further added, “When we started this, we restored an old French colonial house and opened up the atrium to create this very ‘Pondi’ store. But now, in a few years, Pondi will become a city and what reason is there for Casablanca to exist.” The answer, he felt, was to create a space for both local and travellers, so they can relax and recharge and not to mention tourism in Pondicherry is witnessing a great response post second wave.
Pondicherry although overloaded with a lot of eating options till the stretch of Auroville has enough more rooms for new restaurateurs to grow. Covid altogether has not affected the f&b ecosystem of the town much.
Millets of Mewar, Udaipur
Even before the pandemic, Millets of Mewar in Udaipur attracted much-needed eyeballs. Reflecting the traditional culture of India, the cuisines at the restaurant are made with the utmost authenticity of the culture and heritage. To support other local small business owners and farmers, the restaurant uses locally sourced and produced, organically grown ingredients, wherever and whenever possible. The restaurant serves local millets, Rajasthani dishes, vegan, gluten-free, raw food, less oil and organic dishes.
Not just Indian travellers but international tourists possessed a huge clientele base for the restaurant. Following a dismal January, customers started coming back last month and the chain increased rates by 15 percent compared to February last year. Encouraged by rising demand, the restaurant has expanded its seating capacity by 20 percent. “We continue to see domestic demand gain traction, assisting average daily rates to perform better with each presiding week,” founder Sunny Manoj commented.
Baba Au Rhum, Goa
The effect of this mass exodus from cities into the smallest state in India is evident today not only in Goa’s rising rents and unabated construction frenzy, but also in a slew of new restaurant openings chains that are relocating or expanding to serve the ongoing #WorkFromGoa movement. In the pandemic haze, the destination has emerged as the favourite meeting point for a diverse horde of vacationers during this age of travel restrictions. Add to this cheaper rents, lower overhead costs, affordable licenses and the reliable pleasures of the freshest seafood, and you have an abridged tutorial on why Goa is a charm for most restaurateurs today.
EaseMyTrip said there has been a 40 to 50 percent jump in advance air ticket bookings for the long weekends as compared to the same period last year. Run by Dayini Feraud, Baba Au Rhum in Anjuna Goa is one of the most exceptional cafes in that area. Comes in with a great ambience and food but mostly stocked up with people making a prior reservations is mandatory.
“The pent up demand has a lot to do with the fact that the dynamics and demographics in Goa changed drastically over the last two years. A lot of our clientele moved to Goa, not only for the lockdown but they continued to see value in moving there, and this made us believe that it would possibly be a good idea to explore new innovations now, Feraud mentioned while informing that till April this year, he is expecting to close 20x sales compared to last year.
One reason for this growth expectation is the overall aspect of rise in consumption and travelling among customers. While offices are opening up, people have started planning out their holidays in advance. Even those who are working from home have started moving out during weekdays and weekends now. Additionally, newer trends like education tourism, staycations, workstations, and homestays are also expected to generate revenue in the coming times and help the industry to get back on its feet.