People of Dhaka love music, cultural events, occasional shouting matches on streets, and most importantly food. Food is one element, for which the citizens of Dhaka would consider getting out of their comfort zone- driving to their favorite restaurants with friends and family despite rain, heat, or standstill traffic.
Restaurants are, unmistakably, a part of the social fabric in Dhaka where eating is not just a necessity but a mandatory recreational place to let out steam after a tough day, week, or even a month. However, in recent times, things have taken a depressing turn. COVID-19 is moving at an alarming pace, threatening the very nature of the restaurant business. Nadia Khan, owner of Farmhouse Burger states that most of the restaurants have shut down or halted their operations indefinitely in an effort to contain the spread of the virus, despite incurring huge financial losses in the process. “It is almost unimaginable how the Dhaka restaurant industry will look once this pandemic is over- most ventures in the industry will not survive, they will simply not reopen their doors,” she adds.
For an industry, where even moderate revenue fluctuations are perilous due to high fixed operating expenses, the reality of zero revenue is just devastating. Nadia says, “we have already started seeing workers losing tips, shifts, and jobs.” It is only a matter of time when even the restaurants and other enterprises that are continuing to pay salaries for the remainder of the month, will eventually run out of cash flow. Nadia downheartedly expressed that the current difficult time will not only end with their hardships alone, the maintenance businesses for restaurants such as cleaning crews, food vendors, equipment repair, etc. will suffer as well.
Nadia believes that the government’s assistance can play a huge role in alleviating many of these hardships. Here are a few to consider:
- A recovery fund to pay employees and maintain financial obligations (for 6 months)
- Assistance in deferring mortgage, lease and loan obligations
- Tax Payment Deferral
- Eviction Protection
- One-time small business loan to restart restaurant operations after COVID
Nadia and her team have taken the stance to keep their restaurant, Farmhouse Burger, closed until Eid and will only consider reopening it if it’s safe to do so. “We miss serving our guests, but the health, well-being of our employees, as well as the community, outweigh any revenue that would come in. We were lucky enough to retain a significant portion of our team, and continue to take care of them financially,” she orates. The restauranteur plans on opening a new Mexican restaurant, Taqueria Lola, soon.
“Although the future may seem bleak, we have always been hopeful and resilient as people, community and as a country. Let’s get creative and work together to rebuild our industry. Stay home, stay safe. Wishing you all a blessed Eid!” Nadia concludes.