Society

How restaurants in Coimbatore are coping with the Coronavirus outbreak

Falling empty Walk-ins are decreasing in restaurants in the city

Falling empty Walk-ins are decreasing in restaurants in the city   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Order of the day: What happens to restaurants that are seeing fewer walk in diners? Some wait and watch, while others use the time to plan new menus, upskill staff and hope for a return to normal

For Chippikul Muthu, who sells dosas at his roadside stall, it was business as usual till the authorities asked him to shut down. He hopes he can reopen as soon as he gets permission, as there are enough people who, he says, will return to eat his food. Till he shut down, “we did brisk business.” Muthu is praying fervently that things will get better. “I cannot afford to close it down for long. I have loans to repay.”

A file photo of Chippikul Muthu who runs a roadside eatery near Lakshmi Mills Junction in Coimbatore.

A file photo of Chippikul Muthu who runs a roadside eatery near Lakshmi Mills Junction in Coimbatore.   | Photo Credit: M. Periasamy

Coimbatore’s favourite haunt is facing the Coronavirus brunt too. “Our business has come down drastically over the weeks,” says Executive Director, Jegan Srinivasan of Annapoorna. RHR’s group’s M Sivakumar agrees that walk-ins have seen a drastic drop of 30-40%. “We have cut down on production for two weeks. Our employees are at work but they are idle most of the time.” Sivakumar is optimistic “We haven’t thought about any other activity to engage them, as this is a temporary issue. Soon, hopefully, things will improve.”

But both point out that hygiene has always been priority and they are taking extra precautions now to ensure the staff and the equipment in the kitchens are in good health and condition. Sivakumar adds that the employees have health insurance.

Shreeya Adka of The French Door

Shreeya Adka of The French Door   | Photo Credit: M Periasamy

These are trying times. Uncertain ones for restaurant owners and their staff. As customers peter out, there is the very real worry of what to do with the employees. Some have done the best they can and are hoping their regular clients will now order through food aggregators. “We are urging out customers to order online. We are doing everything we can to reassure them that the food is being prepared in the most safe and hygienic way,” says Shreeya Adka of the fine-dine restaurant The French Door.

Ranjana Singhal talks to her staff about health and hygiene at On The Go

Ranjana Singhal talks to her staff about health and hygiene at On The Go   | Photo Credit: M Periasamy

Speaking of her three restaurants (On The Go, That’s Y Food and Café Totaram), Ranjana Singhal says, “Even online business is not doing that well. But, of the three, Totaram is doing a little better.”

Arun Viswanathan of Infusions Café prefers to be more upbeat as he says, “While there is a 15% decrease in the number of people walking in, sales through apps have increased by 30%.”

Neel Chhabria conducting a COVID-19 awareness session at his restaurant Kailash Parbat

Neel Chhabria conducting a COVID-19 awareness session at his restaurant Kailash Parbat   | Photo Credit: M Periasamy

Neel Chhabria, who runs Kailash Parbat (Brookefields Mall) and The Noodle Theory (RS Puram), repeatedly uses the phrase, ‘need of the hour’. “If it had been anything else, we would have felt bad about shutting down. But given the magnitude of what’s happening, no complaints,” he says. Both restaurants are not allowing any dine-in. “The need of the hour is prevention, so we decided to close down.”

Shreeya, Ranjana, Neel and Arun are using the extra time as productively as they possibly can. Neel laughs. “I am telling them to go play in the open area. There is no one round and they’ll never get a chance like this,” he says before adding more seriously, “We can’t send them away. What will they do? So we’re bleeding doubly but I believe our loss is fractional compared to what’s happening around the world.”

Ranjana is ensuring that her team’s morale does not go down. “We are using the time to upskill the staff. We are working on a new lunch combo menu, the logistics for that, picking out new crockery and constantly talking to the staff about customer relations, soft skills... all this is keeping us occupied. I can’t clutch my head in despair and give up. I prefer to stay active, mentally at least. I am hopeful that, sometime in April, I will be well prepared with the new menu and we can have a trial run.” Of course, all dependent on the situation, as “once I launch the menu, I cannot roll back.”

The staff of Infusions Café is also following suit with having trials for new goodies to be introduced in the future. Says Arun, “We will use the time productively and concentrate on delivery service. While I have no immediate plans of shutting the café, I will do so if things do not improve.”

How you can help
  • By not getting offended if the staff remind you to wash your hands (It is nothing personal and it is for your safety and theirs)
  • Ordering online from them (if they remain open). This ensures less possibility of contagion and keeps the restaurants going
  • By not demanding hand sanitisers. Restaurants provide handwashes and you might want to leave your table, go to wash your hands. Or bring your own hand sanitisers

Shreeya is a combination of resignation and positivity. “Things are not good at all with a drop of nearly 50 per cent in our guests. It is tough. But someone told me that the pollution is coming down and what is happening is Nature’s way of giving herself time to rest and recuperate. This break has given us more time to focus on a new menu. All of us are involved in it, so that is good. We had set aside many small projects, and we can work on them now. So that when all this down, the tedious back-end work will be over and we can concentrate on our guests.”

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 4:02:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/how-restaurants-in-coimbatore-are-coping-with-the-coronavirus-outbreak/article31127735.ece

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