The kind of impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the food and beverage industry in Tamil Nadu can be gauged by the fact that at least 30,000 restaurants in the state have closed their stores over the past two years due to restrictions on eating out. to go.
Now, in the midst of the third wave, the restaurant industry has sent an SOS to the state government against any move to re-impose a lockdown and save them from the current 50 percent eating restrictions.
Gandharv Dhingra, a restaurateur in Chennai, had to close five of his 10 cafes during the pandemic. His company “Roll Baby Roll” lost more than Rs 30 lakh, not counting the income lost during the two total shutdowns and a series of curfews and restrictions on dining, especially on weekends.
As a last ditch effort, he has now started a cloud kitchen to keep the fires burning.
“We are unable to use the capacity because of the 50 percent restrictions on dining. That’s the cost you save, plus you save on staff costs because you are now interacting directly with customers,” Mr Dhingra told DailyExpertNews.
Ms Rekha Dandey, who launched Chennai’s first pet-friendly restaurant “Twisty Tails” in 2018, lost Rs 60 lakhs after two lockdowns. Financially hard hit, she had to close and revive it in 2021 after giving up 30 percent of her stake. Now the third wave scares her.
Explaining the difficulty, she said, “We had plans to open six franchises in different cities. We had to hold back and stop that completely. So far, there are no plans to start that again.”
As food delivery aggregators like Swiggy and Zomato see a new high in business, restaurant owners say these players have been eating into their margins, too.
Mr Shriram Rajendran, director of Cassandra Foods explains, “We make less profit compared to customers dining in restaurants because aggregators charge huge commissions.”
When asked how much the commission component is, he added, “between 25 and 30 percent.”
According to the industry, at least 30,000 restaurants across Tamil Nadu have been closed since 2020 due to the pandemic. As a result, 50,000 people lost their jobs. Though the industry was crippled by lost revenue, restaurant owners had to continue to pay property rents, salaries and debts despite the loss of business. Now the industry has sent an SOS to the government urging them not to impose a lockdown and to be mindful of their condition.
Speaking about the industry’s fears, Mr Japtej Ahluwalia, President of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) in Chennai, said: “The concern is that the third wave is coming in and stricter restrictions leading to losses that are huge. no fresh capital is available, it will cause a massive crisis.”
The last two lockdowns have dealt a double blow to restaurants across India. While it’s a tightrope for the government amid the rising number of third-wave cases, the restaurant industry believes the government needs to address their concerns with empathy before it’s too late.