When a crisis of the magnitude of the Covid-19 global pandemic forces restaurants to close, and their revenue drops to zero overnight, things get particularly dire. Unlike the oligopolistic airline industry, where a few large firms can easily band together to lobby for government support, the concerns of restaurant owners and the unique realities of their industry remain largely unaddressed by government programs.
Initially hit by the first wave and now by the second, it’s surely a grim situation for the industry. However, in spite of receiving no ventilator support from the government, the restaurant industry in India had never pulled its hands behind when it came to giving back to society.
"The restaurant industry has been vigorously following all the Covid-19 protocols since the start of the pandemic, in order to prevent the spread of the virus, amongst our customers, workers, and even our vendors. Although, facing a major crisis, we have never shirked from our responsibility towards the well being of our workforce, and tried to save as many jobs as possible, in spite of a meagre amount of revenue flow available through home delivery of food,” Shivanand Shetty, President, Indian Hotel & Restaurant Association (AHAR) said.
The restaurant home delivery service is at present, addressing the needs of those in WFH mode, Covid warriors in need of basic food, residents in containment zones striving to avail meals during isolation, and is regularly engaged with the government in its efforts to contain the pandemic situation.
“Significance of our industry, especially in times of a crisis is often ignored by the administration, which is hurting the sentiments of our members,” Shetty further added.
Recalling last year’s crisis, restaurateurs like Zorawar Kalra, Om Nayak and Vishal Anand were seen aggressively distributing free meals to the needy. This year too, several have come up and formed a community to help and deliver meals to the infected.
Chef Saransh Goila has started CovidMealsforIndia initiative to connect covid patients who can't cook and require daily home-cooked meals to home chefs, volunteers, tiffin services, and delivery kitchens, who can provide these meals. Goila curated a Pan India Google spreadsheet with details of various home chefs, tiffin providers, cooks, and restaurants that were crowdsourced through social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter. Several volunteers who had already curated regional food services lists have also contributed selflessly to this list.
“I believe there is hope in this list, there is life. After all, food is life, isn't it? It's not been easy to read messages where kids are looking for meals for parents who are stuck without help or kids who are stuck alone and don't know how to recover solo or an entire family looking for food providers to meet their needs,” Goila has commented.
Within 48 hours of starting the campaign, Chef Saransh was able to receive an exhilarating response, and A-listers like Priyanka Chopra, Katrina Kaif, Sonam Kapoor, etc. have promoted the initiative on their social media platforms as well to amplify it digitally. They are hoping that their small initiative will help India recover better and come back stronger.
Since the restaurants’ space is being vacant and un-operated due to lockdown, recently Yash Bhanage, Founder at Hunger Inc Hospitality suggested to Aaditya Thackeray that empty restaurants can be used as vaccination centres where the team can help setting up appointments and registering citizens.
“We can help drive the message of vaccinations through all our social media platforms. We stand with your government in helping Maharashtra fight Covid. I am sure the entire restaurant industry will join the cause,” Bhanage said.
Not to forget that, most restaurants in India and around the world work on slim 10 to 15 percent EBITDA margins with hardly three weeks of cash flow. One of the largest in the service sector, this industry contributes around 3 percent to the GDP of India and is its single largest employer with more than 73 lakhs people on its payrolls. Industry estimates suggest that one in every four restaurants in India may never open again.
So many businesses have borrowed money or taken loans to try to ensure their restaurants survive. Owners today feel that there are so many factors that the government hasn’t taken into account. Various industry bodies and associations have already pleaded with the government to consider giving some tax relief or direct financial assistance.
Whether there is light or not on the other side of the tunnel is debatable, the restaurant industry has made it quite evident that they have stood up despite adversities to support the nation in trying times.
Edited By Nusra