Tamil Nadu

Restaurants, hotels may turn their backs on dine-in, continue with takeaways alone

Over 80% of restaurants and hotels across Chennai have decided not to open their dine-in facilities for a few days, but will continue takeaway services. Industry sources said frequent changes to decisions pertaining to the lockdown were hampering business in a big way, leading to huge losses.

The managing director of a popular restaurant chain, which is over three decades old, said, “In June, when the government allowed dine-in with social distancing, we opened select outlets to gauge the response. Our sales went up by 15%. But we were all instructed within a few days to close dine-in and allow only takeaways. The workers who came back to duty were again kept idle, entailing an additional cost.” He added, “Some of the workers managed to go back to their homes, and for those who decided to stay back we had to provide accommodation/food and other facilities.”

According to a government notification, restaurants and teashops shall be permitted to function with dine-in facilities, with 50% of the seating capacity, following the standard operating procedure, from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Takeaway services will be permitted in hotels and restaurants from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

K.T. Srinivasa Raja, managing director of Adyar Ananda Bhavan Sweets India Pvt. Ltd., said, “We will open only select outlets for dine-in immediately. We will see how the trial run works; based on the feedback, we will re-open other branches.” On the business side, Mr. Raja said takeaways were good, and apart from food delivery apps, people started coming out to take parcels back home.

“In the first phase (starting Saturday), we will open 10 of our outlets for dine-in across Chennai in places including Ashok Nagar, T. Nagar and Nungambakkam. We will look at the response and start opening other outlets in phases,” said Sathish D. Nagasamy, Managing Director of Dindigul Thalappakatti.

M. Ravi, president of the Chennai Hotels Association and chairman of Vasanta Bhavan Hotels India Pvt. Ltd, indicated that many hotels under his association would continue with takeaways and decide on resuming dine-in based on market sentiment. “We don’t want to run a risk. We would rather wait and watch,” he said, adding that only a few of his outlets (in location where sales would be good) would open up for dine-in. Many small hotels with a seating capacity of 15-20 people have decided not to run the risk of resuming dine-in and some are not even going to open their outlets. A small-time hotelier who runs a shop near Panagal Park said, “I pay one lakh in rent for this building. Apart from that, I have to pay salaries to my eleven workers, raw material costs, electricity and water charges.” He added, “In June, we opened our outlet and we hardly had any footfall owing to the lack of transport. In two days, I decided to close the shop instead of running it at a loss. I gave 50% salary to my workers and asked them to go home. Now I can’t even call them back as they need e-passes. I applied for it but got rejected, so my outlets [three] will stay closed,” he said.

The managing director of a popular Italian restaurant in the city said his outlets would remain closed for dine-in. “My clientèle is totally different. My consumers will not have food at a place where there is no air-conditioning. So I have decided to continue focusing on takeaways through food delivery apps,” he said.

Hotels and restaurants have also made several representations to the State and Central governments requesting for some relief, including post COVID-19 soft loans to re-start hotels and restaurants. According to industry estimates, the city has over 9,500 eateries, including bakeries and coffee shops.

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Printable version | Aug 13, 2020 9:53:20 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/restaurants-hotels-may-turn-their-backs-on-dine-in-continue-with-takeaways-alone/article32244488.ece

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