As the country traipses back to normalcy, citizens are getting ready for shops, parlours and their favourite restaurants to re-open, given that the government’s Unlock1 agenda allowed markets, malls, restaurants, places of worship and private offices to open again, starting June 8 2020. These relaxations are contingent upon state-specific mandates and compulsory safety guidelines for citizens, but also posit a host of functional impediments that many establishments, food and otherwise, are still figuring their way around.
The general safety guidelines that include things like, maintaining social distancing (individuals must remain six feet apart from each other in public places), mandatory use of face masks, hand washing and use of the government’s COVID-19-tracking app, Aarogya Setu, apply to all public places. For restaurants specifically, there are additional guidelines in place. These include, use of disposable paper napkins and menus, regular temperature checks for staff and guests, mandatory hand sanitizer dispensers at the entrance of restaurants, contactless ordering and digital payments, apart from a reduced capacity. The government hasn’t yet allowed bars to be operational and imposed a 9 pm curfew on restaurants, which means they need to shut before peak dinner hours that makes reopening them less viable. But what does this mean for diners like you and me? Let’s look at what the situation is like on-ground, in each of the metropolises:
Delhi In Delhi, CM Arvind Kejriwal announced that all restaurants and malls will open as per the centre’s guidelines. And they did. However, to abysmally low footfalls. Additionally, since the mandate doesn’t allow the reopening of bars or places serving alcohol, this would mean, restaurants with bar licenses can only start their kitchen operations, which in turn means, no sale of alcohol. Priyank Sukhija, founder and CEO, First Fiddle Restaurant, which owns establishments such as Lord of the Drinks and Plum by Bentchair, feels that he’d rather keep his establishments shut. “It is economically more viable to keep restaurants shut, since it is difficult to cover our cost of operations [under these circumstances],” Sukhija says—a sentiment shared by many Indian restaurateurs. Some have had to take drastic steps of shutting shop for good such as, Smoke House Deli in the popular Khan Market, where reports suggest the closure of 40 per cent establishments. This includes Side Wok, Smokeys BBQ & Grill, the popular and much loved, Café Turtle, alongside the iconic Full Circle Bookshop. However, for QSRs it’s a different story. International fast food chains like, KFC, Pizza Hut and McDonalds had opened, alongside local diners, like Saravana Bhavan in Central Delhi. What to expect: Quick service restaurants, chain-outlets, cakeries like, The Big Chill Cakery to stay open and deliveries will be functional. Bars, Pubs and Fine-Dines will not be opening just yet.