Fine dining experiences will never be same again, feel restaurateurs

Fine dining experiences will never be the same again, feel restaurateurs who believe people will be more interested in takeaway and online ordering after the lockdown is lifted.

Restaurants in Kolkata are looking to slash in-house dining capacities by 40 per cent to ensure social distancing norms are followed and also ramp up their tech infrastructure to handle more orders online.

Nitin Kothari, the owner of iconic Peter Cat and Mocambo in the Park Street area, told PTI that seating capacities will be reduced by 40 per cent in his restaurants to ensure enough space between patrons.

“We foresee there will be less footfall in the dining area as people will be more interested in takeaway and not stay outside for long,” he said.

All standard safety measures — from keeping sanitisers to making masks mandatory both for customers and staff — will be followed while opening the outlets.

Stating that online orders will turn out to be an important segment of operations for both Mocambo and Peter Cat, Kothari said, “We will ensure our delivery boys take all kinds of precautions and address every concern of our customers.”

He said the waiting time for customers for takeaway will be short and staggered to ensure that there is no crowding at the delivery counter.

“But the question that remains is how long will this uncertainty continue. We hope the sooner the virus is defeated and the government lifts this lockdown, we can return to normalcy,” Kothari said.

Suresh Poddar, the secretary of Hotel and Restaurants’ Association of Eastern India, said restaurants have suffered losses to the tune of thousands of crores due to the lockdown and many of them cannot restart their outlets due to the losses they have incurred.

He said the losses cannot be recovered after opening of the restaurants in the post-lockdown situation.

Of the 4,500 registered restaurants all over the state, a sizeable number will not be able to start operating again due to no income for such a long period and high rental outgo, Poddar said.

However, those who will be able to restart their business, will operate with 60 per cent of their seating capacity, he said.

“People may not be as much interested to eat out in the changed situation and online delivery will occupy that space,” he said.

Shiladitya Chaudhury, a partner of Oudh 1590, said the effect of COVID-19 will be felt for a long time and people will prefer takeaway and online delivery than sitting in the restaurant.

“We will open our outlets as soon as we get government clearance. But the question that remains is when,” he said.

He said the seating capacity will be reduced to 60 per cent and apart from the use of sanitisers by staff and customers, the hand napkins will be disposed of after single use and a menu card will be cleaned with disinfectant immediately after being checked by a customer.

“While we don’t usually encourage table bookings, this time we will be requesting customers not to crowd the space at a particular time. For instance, one group will be requested to come at 7 pm, another group at 8 pm. That will enforce social distancing more effectively,” Chaudhury said.

Those coming for takeaway will also be asked to do the same with different time slots allotted, he said.

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