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Maharashtra eases curbs on restaurants, experts disappointed with lack of clarity on opening roadmap

Very disappointed with the way things are panning out and very dejected with the new lockdown, which is beating every logic and not clarifying the roadmap to opening, said Anurag Katriar, President, NRAI.

As Maharashtra has eased COVID-19 related curbs, timings for dine-in services have been extended and restaurants have also been allowed to open on weekends, however, only until late afternoon or early evening.
To understand the incremental benefits of the extended hours and working days, and how businesses are operating, CNBC-TV18 spoke with Anurag Katriar, President, National Restaurant Association of India, and Anjan Chatterjee, Chairman and MD, Speciality Restaurants.
Katriar said that about 70 percent of restaurants’ revenues come from dinner and while lunch only accounts for barely 30 percent.  “Looking at the way things have progressed, since the beginning of the lockdown in March of 2020, in 497 days that we have been operational that is since this lockdown has been announced, we have been shut for 52 percent of the time. And we have operated between 33 to 50 percent capacity for the rest of the time,” he said, adding that dinner services were operational only in October-November till about 10 pm.
He said he is very disappointed with the way things are panning out and very dejected with the new lockdown, which he said is beating every logic and not clarifying the roadmap to opening.
“If with some 2 percent test positivity rate, you are still telling me that you can't operate beyond 4 pm, then what is the logic? I only understand a single logic that 50 percent capacity conforms to the COVID norms. But if you're working at 50 percent, then why these timing restrictions and restrictions on the days of the week,” Katriar added.
Katriar said, “We were expecting far more with improvement in all the indices of COVID but unfortunately, we are very, frustrated and very disappointed.”
He explained that weekends accounted for about 40 percent of weekly sales and now restaurants have been allowed to operate on these days, it is only for a few hours for lunch.
Chatterjee said shared the same sentiments and claimed that the kind of logic that has been put behind the pattern of reopening is very confounding.
Talking about food and beverages, Chhaterjee said “beverages have gone, all our bars and nightclubs have gone for a toss. We're just talking about the food, of which primarily 70 percent is dinner and 30 percent is lunch, depending on the areas where you operate.”
He added, “We have staff coming in, we put them on the job, and pay them salaries but suddenly they're working half the time because of restrictions. So it's surely going to be yet another challenge. Because we were in the mode of survival. From there, we had come for a short period of time with revival. Now it's going to be the worst possible phase. This is going to be the worst thing because Bombay has the largest chunk, for all of us. So I think it's going to be very, very difficult.”
For the full interview, watch the video