If you don’t mind carrying your food to a table and eating it while standing, a trip to the restaurant has just become lighter on the pocket. Major vegetarian restaurant chains in the city are encouraging customers to opt for the self-service section, with some even slashing prices. Around 10 per cent of hotel customers, who are either in a hurry or don’t mind standing while eating, prefer the self-service option.
The reduction is also aimed at customers who are reluctant to pay the newly-introduced service tax for air conditioned restaurants. Many customers were also unhappy over having to pay nearly the same amount at self-service counters and sections where waiters took orders. The stabilising of vegetable prices and that of coffee beans also contributed to the move.
Hotel Saravana Bhavan has slashed prices in the six outlets where the self-service option is available. “The prices of coffee beans have come down from Rs. 290 – Rs. 310 to Rs. 190- 210. So, we decided to pass on the benefit to customers,” said a source in the restaurant chain.
M. Ravi of Vasantha Bhavan said that many customers were unhappy about the service tax. “We are encouraging these customers to use fast food counters where this tax is not levied. The reduction of prices for the self-service segment is to attract such customers,” he said
Prices have come down in Adyar Ananda Bhavan and Hot Chips too. A source with the latter said meals now cost Rs. 60 as opposed to Rs. 80 earlier. K.T. Srinivasaraja, president, Chennai Hotels Association, said that many hotels are also highlighting the self-service mode in order to deal with the labour shortage.
A more alert and cautious customer base is a factor too. “Like every other bill, I check hotel bills to see if I have been charged for what I ate. Similarly, I have asked the manager at my regular hotel why I should pay the same amount for door delivery when I don’t utilise their air-conditioning,” said S. Varadan, a resident of Rangarajapuram and a frequent visitor to a restaurant chain. And for those who still prefer to sit and eat, the prices of fast-moving items saw a rapid decline over the past two weeks. Hotel industry sources said that prices of many food items had been brought down even for air-conditioned restaurant customers.
“The prices of vegetables have stabilised and those in the know have forecast that there will not be any fluctuation in prices for the next three months. Oil prices too have come down. These factors contributed to our decision to reduce prices,” said a source. Many hotels are also procuring milk directly from farmers or have even set up their own diaries to ensure the stability of milk prices.
Mr. Srinivasaraja added that the reduction in prices was also driven by a drop of 10 – 15 per cent in the number of customers in all classes of restaurants. “High prices were driving customers away. This has led to hoteliers reducing prices of fast moving items,” he added.