After a glorious decade of food options popping up left, right and centre, the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly has Dhaka’s restaurant scene in a rut. From upscale eateries serving exotic cuisines to small carts on the corner of our streets, every food business is rethinking their strategy and having to adapt to unforeseen changes.

Even though the majority of offices and stores in the city have reopened, the hustling and bustling coffee shops and restaurants are seen empty. Nobody wants to snack out with six feet distance between each other, wearing masks and worrying whether the restaurant’s kitchen had been disinfected, or the cook wore gloves – the stakes are too high!

But food is both a necessity and a luxurious indulgence that will never go out of fashion. You would be wise to launch your restaurant’s presence online right about now, no matter how sudden or large-scale technological advancement may seem.

It is a classic case of the phrase, survival of the fittest. And if it isn’t obvious already – e-commerce and home delivery are here for the long haul!

Our July issue cover story engages with some of the exponents of the restaurant and F&B businesses and tries to figure out the recipe for a resurgence.

BENGAL EXPRESS  (Lucknow, Paturi, Art Cafe, Sweets of Bengal)

Zeenat Chowdhury, Managing Director of Bengal Express expounds upon the challenges of the restaurant business and strategies that can help it steer forward.

The question of survival

This pandemic has hit everyone hard, and other than that of essentials, all businesses have been affected adversely. The restaurant business is one of the worst-hit as it requires people to go out and risk being exposed. Also, people are wary of bringing food into their homes, and also some people are more careful about spending money. Therefore, given all these factors, needless to say, we have seen far better days.

Retaining the talents

In regards to this, I will have to explain a bit in detail. There are a few practical issues that had to be considered to be able to function at all. As we have a few outlets, we have a relatively large force of people working for us. Right in the beginning when we as a nation began to understand and actually take note and measures, we understood that many of our personnel would want to go to their villages and given the overall uncertainty, it would be very difficult for many to stay in Dhaka and cope with the rising prices as well as face issues like being able to have another cook for them (as many tend to stay in dormitory/hostel style of living). Therefore, considering the practicality, we let them go back. As for the rest we have arranged for them to live on the premises so that they don’t have to commute and be exposed on a daily basis. As for the sweets factory, all of the sweet artisans already stayed at the factory premise so that wasn’t an issue. Therefore, we have been able to minimise exposure and hence ensure that the food we prepare is done so, as safely as possible.

How to bounce back in business

By now, we all realise that life as we knew it has changed on a more permanent basis. Whether we like it or not there is a ‘new normal’ that we all must adapt and cater to. Maintaining safety measures is no longer optional. It has already become mandatory so that has to continue and that is not really the issue at hand. Being out and about in places where there are quite a few people and being able to maintain a safe distance is the issue. And that is something we all have to try to do. Restaurant covers per day will most likely change in the immediate future and restaurants must look to alternative means to make up for that loss in revenue. Operational costs will increase and most likely prices, and that is true generally. I do foresee costs of living going up as we incorporate the costs of sanitisation in our lives as a part of our daily routine. And hence some businesses will survive and some will not and this is probably not specific to the food industry. Having said this, a really good thing is that, we as a people, are extremely resilient and resourceful and although this may hold us back for some time, I am confident it will be temporary and we will come out with a new lease of life from this.

On takeaway and food delivery

Food delivery has always been an added service appreciated by both restaurants and their clientele. It has made life so much more convenient for many and has also helped restaurants expand their business without having to make any additional capital investment. Under the present circumstances, it is already helping the restaurant business by delivering our food to our customers and I believe it will continue to do so.

Ushering in innovations

We are working on a few strategies and options, but are still at a premature stage to really say anything substantial.

Safety of the employees

Fortunately, the food industry is such that cleanliness and hygiene must be maintained anyway. So along with the regular safety and hygiene measures, everything is wiped down and sanitised at regular intervals. The chefs and all staff have their temperature taken every day. Hand washing was always essential in a kitchen but now it’s on a different level, as they are required to wash hands in between food preparation, after touching any surface, before and after their meals or any break, before and after cleaning the kitchen or any other area, and if they handle any cash, and all of this along with wearing gloves and mask. It is mandatory for everyone to take vitamin C, and since they are living in almost quarantine conditions it is relatively easier to keep track of them. The more difficult bit is when the groceries come in. We are fortunate to have space outside so all packaging is thrown away immediately without ever having entered the kitchen, and much of the initial washing takes place before it goes into the kitchen. And of course again once inside hands are washed before and after. There are also some strict guidelines already provided by the government for us to follow and we have been following those. Staff always wears masks and gloves and we encourage that delivery be taken from outside so that no one needs to come inside. Of course, this is not possible for all the different outlets as the nature of the business and operations slightly varies from restaurant to sweets.

The role government can play

As mentioned above, given the nature of the business, restaurants have been hit hard. There are possibly a few things that the government can do to help out both the restaurant owners as well as those employed. As eating out has been pretty much the main form of recreation for us, there happens to be an unusually high number of restaurants. Eateries also have some contribution to tourists or foreign visitors. Restaurants usually employ a lot of people but most people employed are not high income earners, therefore if restaurants change their structure and strategy in order to cope with the situation, many people may find themselves out of jobs. The government can create a fund to help these people as each person usually supports their family back in their village, and losing their job will be disastrous for all those dependent on him.
As for the owners, employee salaries and bills will get very difficult to pay as there is hardly any income coming in. The government can set up a fund whereby to provide either a short term loan or a bridging finance to the restaurant owners so that salaries and other bills are paid till things get back to some semblance of normalcy. The government can also help out by either waiving the VAT and income tax or at least reducing it considerably so that the burden is lessened.
It is a grim situation and likely to get worse before it gets better but I’m a big believer in our people despite all the shortcomings, and I am certain we will make it through and finish strong. It won’t be easy, and for some the loss of loved ones is irreplaceable. We can pray for all those who have left us, and hope for this to come to an end sooner than later.

SECRET RECIPE

K.S.M. Mohith-ul Bari, the Head of Business of Pepperoni Limited representing Secret Recipe – the leading Malaysian Café chain on facing the dire challenges

 

The question of survival

We had the lowest sales in the month of April. We were open for home delivery and takeaway under the government’s recommended guidelines and by ensuring the food safety measures. We have started to get some momentum from May and June.

Retaining the talents

The very first thing we have decided is to run the operation with less than one-third staff compered to our regular workforce. We made a roaster for the staff so that they can come every alternate day to minimize the probability of getting infected. We provided them facilities such as pick and drop from their home so that they don’t have to commute in local transport. Before getting into the company transport we took their body temperature, sanitize their feet and hand. Upon reaching the restaurant they have to go through the same level of screening and sanitization process. Besides, we have organised a lot of training on personal grooming, cleanliness, sneezing and coughing etiquette, food safety etc. Our associate’s health is the prime concern during this pandemic situation.
The company’s motto is “going for layoff is the very last resort”, we tried to retain almost all our staff except for the few who are unwilling to continue their job in this situation.

How to bounce back in business

It is getting very difficult to run day to day operation with inadequate cash flow. As of now we are solely depending Secret Recipe’s own home delivery service and partnering with other food delivery companies which have helped us to achieve sales momentum. We are planning to invest heavily on our own e-commerce site and develop our home delivery apps. We are also focusing more on the development of the home delivery infrastructure. We are innovating new foods that are more pocket-friendly, healthy and convenient to consume at workspaces which will require less use of crockery and cutlery. The industry will require to be more innovative and smarter than ever to survive this unprecedented crisis.

On takeaway and food delivery

Organised food delivery business started almost 7 years back and they were growing exponentially since then. These companies were more than prepared in terms of IT infrastructure and distribution area. In the current situation, these companies got more momentum due to the lockdown situation as the quality of the service and delivery time has improved with less traffic on the road. Before the pandemic, the contribution of food delivery partners in sales was around 20%, but now it is around 40% plus. To my mind, food delivery companies will play a pivotal role in the restaurant industry going forward.

Ushering in innovations

Currently, we are practising Contactless Delivery System and therefore, inspiring our guest to use mobile payment platform instead of cash transaction. While delivering the food our delivery personnel’s are instructed to place the food on a clean and safe surface and maintain 6 feet distance from the customer.

Safety of the employees

The very first thing we audit about the delivery staff is their health, personal hygiene and grooming. All our delivery staff carry sanitising kit and wear PPE while delivering food. After every delivery we sanitise the bikes, carry bags, hand and shoes which is strictly monitored by the Café Manager.

The role government can play

The first organised international restaurant chain started their journey in Bangladesh back in 2003. After that the industry has grown many folds, contributing to countries economy by generating revenue for government through VAT and Taxes. It has also created job opportunities for a lot of people with numerous background. It is also creating a skilled workforce who will earn more foreign currency for the country compared to non-skilled labour. By following stringent SOP these international restaurants ensure the highest level of food safety and offer a variety of quality food and delighting the guest. This is a very promising sector which requires long term planning, direction and support to grow further.

At this moment a well-coordinated policy should be articulated involving restaurant management and different agency of the government for a better business environment which can help us to recover the loss of COVID-19 crisis.

TABAQ COFFEE

M. Mubarak Shamim, Managing Director, Tabaq Coffee Company Ltd. shares his thoughts on delivering his famous hot beverage at the doorstep of his loyal customers and the predicament brought by the pandemic.

The question of survival

The restaurant industry has been hit massively as our dine-in options have come down to a complete stop. Given that we are relying mostly on deliveries and takeaways only, it is getting extremely difficult to continue treading on the water for most of us. The following months seem to be even more difficult as we all try to fight off low sales, high rents and safety of our team and customers.

Retaining the talents

We have retained all our staff till now and we have been able to do this due to the constant cooperation and understanding of our team members. We as a company are all trying to ensure that we survive this storm collectively and are able to support each other both financially and emotionally. As for safety, even before our stores were shut down on March 26, we had given our team members the options to travel back and be with their families. This allowed them to be near their loved ones during this extremely distressing period as well as allowing them to be in safer environments in their homes.

How to bounce back in business

As restaurants, our key focus should now be to prioritize the health and safety of our team and the greater community. While we ensure that, we as restaurants, need to look at innovative ways to reach customers at their homes while ensuring and implementing all safety measures.

Additionally, many restaurants are exploring cloud kitchen models to reduce their rental overheads. While some are launching a greater variety of products through their existing kitchens and optimising unused spaces in their restaurants. While these may boost short term sales and allow restaurants to get some breathing space, the real challenge lies ahead.

Restaurants need to constantly train their team members in ensuring health and safety as in the near future restaurants will have to slowly start opening their dine-in spaces to customers. Through training and awareness, we will need to work collectively with our community to stop and reduce the spread of the virus. This also means restaurants will need to redesign seating areas, limit the number of customers, add disinfectant tunnels and perhaps incorporate additional tools and types of equipment that will help stop the spread of the virus.

On takeaway and food delivery

Well, for most restaurants, food delivery has always been a part of the total sales. However, the majority of it has always been generated through dine-in customers. That being said, the availability of food delivery platforms especially during this pandemic has been able to give us some relief in these trying times by bringing us the much-needed sales and more importantly allowing us to remain connected with our customers.

Ushering in innovations

Coffee has always been an extremely challenging product for us to deliver. We were late to join the delivery platform model due to the issue mentioned above, we weren’t sure on how to ensure our customers a hot cup of coffee that would not leak or spill. We eventually figured out a special packaging method that allowed us to minimise chances of the spill as well as keep the coffee hot for a little while longer. We have even shared our technique with another coffee shop in order to help them solve this problem. While the temperature of coffee still remains a big challenge, we are trying to figure out ways to reduce the time taken to deliver a cup of coffee. Hence, a month ago we launched our own delivery service which allows our customers to directly order from us.

Safety of the employees

From the beginning of March 2020, we have constantly been educating our team members regarding the virus. We were quick to implement sanitisation corners, a strict hand wash timetable and also ways to improve self immunity. Additionally, we have only brought in our staff members who live in close proximity to our stores. We have also dispatched a bicycle to each of our staff members in order for them to avoid any type of public transportation when commuting to and back from work. While wearing masks is compulsory we have also created designated waiting for areas for delivery riders who come to collect the food from our stores.

MIRAGE, VILLA AZUR,  MAN MO &  POT BIRYANI

Md Jafor Iqbal, the Director of Mirage and the Managing Partner of Villa Azur, Man Mo and Pot Biriyani, shares his concerns regarding the restaurants in Dhaka during the epidemic of COVID 19.

The question of survival

Among all the popular food delivery services, only one is actually providing enough number of orders on a regular basis to my restaurants. Others are barely functioning even on the 4th month of the epidemic. Apparently, the industry might seem like up and running, but it’s barely surviving the blow. In the upcoming months, the situation is going only going to get worst if nothing is done to their rescue.

Retaining the talents

Even though orders are made the same, concerns are many during this pandemic. Keeping safety as the prime concern, the journey of the food from their kitchen to our tables is supervised on different levels. I had to accommodate living space for my chefs in my restaurants during the pandemic and to ensure safe delivery at my end. Inside and outside the kitchen the staff comprises to carry cautionary behaviours and wears mask and gloves to avoid contamination.

How to bounce back in business

With a smaller percentage of the staff on board and the rest on compromised payrolls, restaurants are trying to stay afloat as the dining experience is off the table. Even after all the adjustments and delivery options, restaurants owners are not making any profit rather they are having difficulties in paying rent and along with the miscellaneous. In the respective months, stronger measures will have to taken by the restaurant owners and the toll will indeed be heavy on the industry.

On takeaway and food delivery

Even with the delivery services available, most people are sceptic about ordering food given the circumstances. With the numbers of orders that we are receiving right now, most restaurant owners will not be able to sustain in the market in the upcoming months.

Ushering in innovations

We have some initiatives planned for the recent situation and Pot Biriyani is one of them. We are also planning to utilize our fully-equipped kitchens altogether as ‘Cloud Kitchen’ to serve enough portions and variety of orders to our loyal customers in the upcoming days.

Safety of the Employees:

As I have enough spaces outside my restaurants, my employees just simply hand over the others to the riders without letting anybody in. We are trying to maintain no-contact policy strictly for both our employees and customers.

The role government can play

Rent is the most taxing aspect for the restaurant owners at the moment. Among all the other expenses, rent takes the lion share of a restaurant’s earning especially when it’s located on a prime spot; such as Mirage. By and large, we have been paying it, but it wouldn’t be possible in a few months. The government should come forward and help us either by sharing portions of the rent or availing us with loans on low-interest rates to overcome this.

HOBNOB COFFEE  AND YAMA  HOTPOT & GRILL

In a conversation with Shamit Ahmed Chowdhury, the Director of Hobnob Coffee and Yama Hotpot & Grill on the challenges faced by him and his team during the current circumstances.

The question of survival

Just like the tourism and hospitality industry, the restaurant business got a massive hit by the pandemic all over the world. We closed all our restaurants on March 25th just when the lockdown started. After two long gruelling months of the lockdown, we were able to resume business 7 days prior to Eid with the government’s approval. Currently, we are facing a challenging time as sales have almost dropped to 80%. With the number of manpower and increasing expenses, predicting the sustainability of the business during this pandemic is quite tough.

Retaining the talents

Before the lockdown started most of our staffs went to their hometown and some of them are still stuck there due to the current circumstances. As mentioned above, we resumed operation after two months starting with 6 staffs out of 35 staffs. In order to cover more grounds in our sale, we started our own delivery and takeaway services by taking proper hygienic measures as per safety compliance and maintaining social distancing.

How to bounce back in business

To be honest, it is very difficult to predict the future of the restaurant business at this moment as we do not know how long the pandemic will last. Currently, every restaurant including ours is doing delivery and takeaways. While the delivery services always add to our sale, it has not been able to bring the numbers like our dining-in services. Everything has been taking place at a very minimum scale. Maybe, after three or four months we will understand the nature of the business and where it is heading. However, if we continue to make limited sales we will not know for how long we can sustain in our current condition.

On takeaway and food delivery

Though the food delivery business is currently doing well, an established restaurant with it has to keep up rents to pay, utilities, gas, raw materials, taxes, salaries, vendors and so many other variable costs. For big restaurants like Hob Nob, Yama Hotpot and many others, food delivery is not enough to cover all the costs. However, it is favourable for small startups and home caterers as they are exempted from a lot of costs.

Ushering in innovations

When it comes to delivering foods, firstly and most importantly, the hygiene has to be ensured. It also imperative to ensure what kind of hygiene and protective measures restaurants are taking, which includes training staffs about proper hygiene and use of protective equipment.

Secondly, focus on making safe packaging to keep food intact should be increased. Making customers aware to reheat the food before having it for extra safety also should be on the agenda. These details do add values in the customer’s mind and give a sense of security.
In other countries, we can see there is drive through takeaways that allow customers to purchase products without leaving their cars, where orders are generally placed using a microphone and later can be picked up in person at the window. I think it’s a great option but then again it will not cater the mass people as it’ll be expensive to install such systems and unfortunately we lack that kind of infrastructure. It is favourable for limited areas with customers having cars. I think if restaurants can develop their own customer-friendly simple app, where customers can easily get the food just a click away, it will have valuable input.

Safety of the employees

We have installed a disinfectant tunnel and kept all the necessary protective equipment for our staffs to ensure their safety and hygiene. We are always checking temperature and investing more on cleaning and ensuring a hygienic environment.

The role government can play

The government did announce to provide subsidies, incentives and loans to various sectors including restaurants, but the process of getting aid from the government is very lengthy and complicated as there are lots of formalities and inspections. A lot of restaurants, including us, have applied for help through restaurant union area-wise but we are yet to receive any response from them. Our main hurdle is to maintain the manpower and keep the business afloat because it’s frustrating to see people in this sector losing jobs. I really hope the government take steps for the survival of this industry as soon as possible.

LAUGHING BUDDHA

Nayeemun Nabi Azad the Chief Executive Officer of Laughing Buddha shares the journey of his venture amid the ongoing crisis

The question of survival

The restaurant is surviving one day at a time. To be honest, this current scenario is unprecedented in our history and no business plan took into account the world would come to a halt from March 2020. Sales wise restaurants have taken one of the biggest hits, with us barely doing 15% of monthly sales compared to normal times. The business has fallen by 85% yet costs have actually gone up by 15-20% as there is a shortage of products and ingredients in the market which is leading to higher food costs.

Retaining the talents

The safety of our staff is our topmost priority as we deliver food to the general population which is a very sensitive matter due to the current circumstances. In the initial days of the pandemic, we held a discussion with our staff members and decided to quarantine them at restaurant premises. Ever since then we have strictly restricted all forms of entry and exit at the premises. We have invested to ensure the health and safety guidelines prescribed for the food industry. Which includes hourly sanitisation at the workplace, mandatory use of masks and gloves, disinfection pods to sanitise incoming raw materials and many more. As a result of our strict safety protocols, everyone in our kitchen is 100% safe so far.

How to bounce back in business

The restaurant industry is one which was hit the earliest when this pandemic started. We lost all our dine-in customers due to panic from March and onwards. To make it worse, our industry will be the last one to return to normal as people won’t completely feel safe to go out and eat at restaurants until there is a permanent solution. In order to survive we must evolve and change the way we plan and do our business. Home delivered food is a pretty new concept in our country, but this is the only medium through which we will be able to survive. So we must think of Home delivery, design our food to be travel friendly, Invest heavily in building the crucial infrastructure of home delivery systems (apps, portals, riders, bikes etc), invest in better and safer packaging and simultaneously maintain health and safety protocols while doing all of it.

On takeaway and food delivery

As mentioned above, food delivery is still in its infancy in Bangladesh compared to other matured markets like China, India, Thailand etc. The industry still has a long way to go in order to be fully effective and reach its optimum stage. That being said, food delivery services have been a blessing for restaurants. It has also become the only medium through which restaurants could keep operating in this dire circumstance, which has given a lot of power to the food delivery companies. They are fully utilising by charging an abnormal amount of commission on sales, and that creates a lot of pressure on the restaurant which is already struggling to survive. I think its beneficial for both parties to come down to a sustainable commission module which doesn’t create excessive pressure on the restaurants and at the same time ensures profit for Food Delivery services. I also believe that it will only be possible once more players (food delivery companies) come into this highly potential market.

Ushering in innovations

We can and should introduce Drones. If China can do it so can we.

Safety of the employees

As I mentioned before, the biggest safety measure we have taken is to completely shut off the restaurant premises from the outside world and quarantined all our staff there from the very beginning. That means no one gets in, not even us, and no one gets out. All our purchases are delivered to the restaurant doorsteps where it’s sanitized and then taken in. Our delivery team lives quarantined in a separate premise away from everyone else. Other than that we have implemented safety protocols for our staff which include sanitising their body every few hours, wearing masks and gloves while working at all times, hourly disinfection sprays to sanitise Kitchen surfaces, Air purifiers to clean germs and viruses in the atmosphere etc. We also ensure our staff to take regular vitamins and exercise indoors to keep themselves in healthy condition.

The role government can play

It is crucial that the government takes into account the restaurant sector when allocating bailout/subsidy budgets. We need the government’s help in giving us Rent Subsidy, access to hassle-free low-interest bank loans, reducing/deferring utility payments and giving us tax subsidies. Hundreds of thousands of families rely on this sector to run their families and right now they are at their most vulnerable time.

DHAKA REGENCY HOTEL & RESORT

In conversation with ICE, Master Chef A.T.M Ahmed Hossain, the Director, Food & Beverage of Dhaka Regency Hotel & Resort on the state of their operation amid the spread of COVID-19.

The question of survival

It is no doubt that we are all in the same boat, with the shore nowhere near in sight. Dhaka Regency Hotel & Resort is fairing this storm with the same aplomb – or lack thereof – as any other hotel in Bangladesh as across the globe, i.e. it has kept all five of its food and beverage outlets closed indefinitely for dine-in during the pandemic and does not have plans to open shop until the dust settles. Therefore, restaurant revenue has dropped to almost nil. They have started delivery and takeaway direct from the kitchen though sales have been too negligible to mention.

Retaining the talents

Generally, around Ramadan, our management and associates really look forward to the annual staff iftar party. This year, we had to miss that and many other morale boosting activities that we host seasonally throughout the year. However, despite the lack of business we are experiencing, we have designed a roster system whereby our employees are being called to duty by rotation so that everyone may retain some sense of normalcy. There is always maintenance work around a hotel property even when there are no guests. Moreover, in an effort to cooperate with and assist the government in fighting this pandemic, we are currently also hosting healthcare professionals who are on duty. Therefore, we are fortunate to have at least in-house guests dining with us and are able to provide actual work to our food and beverage team. Of course, every associate on duty is equipped with necessary safety paraphernalia, trained and monitored for best practice hygiene, and all transactions with our guests are kept as contactless as possible.

How to bounce back in business

It should be noted that the trademark of food and hospitality businesses of the tier in which Dhaka Regency operates is excellent safety and hygiene, so our kitchens and restaurants were already in keeping with industry standards. And, as required, we have already adapted to the additional safety measures required for the new normal, which include food safety both in preparation and packaging, cleaning and sanitisation of work stations from procurement to kitchen to point of delivery, employee health monitoring and personal hygiene supervised by in-house doctor and floor supervisors, and social distancing between on-duty staff as well as guests in-house and at point of exchange. The reality is that the additional safety measures do cut into our margin but as they say, better safe than sorry, and ensuring safety is our topmost priority both morally and in a business sense.

On takeaway and food delivery

In this pandemic, there is no alternative for restaurants than to focus on food delivery and takeaway service to sustain the business. We expect that people will remain cautious for a very long time – much longer than it will take for the elusive vaccine to be invented – to return to the practice of dining out. And that is justifiably so. However, over the past decade or two, people’s habit of restaurant dining have been established as an undeviating lifestyle reality and we know there is a demand for it even in this pandemic from the queries we receive. Thankfully, food delivery services that came into play over the last five or six years also paved the way for food lovers the opportunity to dine-in. This shift in lifestyle and recreation is now at the forefront of food and beverage business. And it up to all of us hoteliers and restaurateurs, to step up to that plate and perform at our best. The way to do that is to induce confidence in diners in regards to the food safety practices that each business assures.

Ushering in innovations

Innovation in food service is an ongoing process; COVID-19 is simply pushing us to come up with innovation faster. For the time being, any restaurant that hasn’t integrated online ordering to their website had better hop on the bandwagon. “Click & Collect” modules should no longer be considered an augmented service but rather part of the core business. Moreover, online ordering should not be limited to any single platform, whether a restaurant is using third party delivery agents or has their own team. Every digital resource from messages on Facebook to texts over WhatsApp should be utilise to reach guests who no longer enjoy the luxury of walking into your restaurant. Another tradition that we never quite picked up on in Bangladesh that may now play a part is drive-thru restaurants or simply quick-stop pickup points for every restaurant with card payment POS to make the takeaway system also contactless.

Safety of the employees

All our on-duty associates are equipped with personal protective equipment necessary to perform their tasks in a safe and healthy environment. Training on personal hygiene and food safety have been bolstered with new guidelines and are conducted at the beginning of each roster as well as reminders are shared at the beginning of every shift. This pertains to both the individual and the premises in which they operate. Wherever possible, we try to ensure social distancing between staff members as well as secure contactless execution of transactions with guests. In case of situations where exchange and payment cannot be made contactless, terminal cleaning is increased post transaction.

The role government can play

The crux here is that business volume has dropped to almost nil for every restaurant across the nation but the cost of upkeep has not. Amidst all of this, utilities costs are increasing. In fact, increasing electricity, water, and gas prices is counterintuitive to the current situation. If businesses cannot survive, the government cannot collect taxes, and therefore, the government cannot sustain. If price increases were already in the pipeline for the current fiscal year, this should have been halted just as businesses and people’s lives have been put on hold. In the least, the government should implement a system to subsidise the cost that they are imposing to ensure survival of restaurants and hotels. Similarly, rent control should be implemented on commercial spaces so that entrepreneurs may continue to be able to pay their employees instead of bleeding out rent money. This would ensure the livelihood of the thousands of dependents of this industry and keep the money circulating. For the post-Covid situation, the government may also consider offering co-op spaces in major public hubs such as airports, bus stations, railway stations, and tourist attractions, etc. so that current restaurant operators as well as new startups may have new outlets to contribute to the economy.