Karan Puri, a leading food & lifestyle influencer checks in with Today's Traveller on what India's food scenario is likely to be post-COVID 19 especially when the restaurant industry is facing its worst existential crisis.
The Food industry has seen the best of times last year. New restaurants were opening almost every week in metro cities. It seemed that everybody was eating out in restaurants or some posh lounges in hotels. There were a crazy number of events, dozens of food groups on Facebook were mushrooming and everybody was only talking about entertainment and food. Live concerts, jam sessions, stand-up
comedy nights were abuzz. And suddenly the COVID pandemic strikes and the food industry is in a big spot.
It is ironic that the Restaurants, Travel and Hotel industry is suffering the most due to the crisis and they have got the least benefits from the government. The restaurant industry, with an annual turnover of over Rs 4 lakh crore and a direct employee base of over seven million, is fighting a grim battle for its basic survival amidst the Covid-19 outbreak.
In fact, India’s restaurant industry is facing what is possibly its worst existential crisis. The organised restaurant sector accounts for 35 per cent of India’s restaurant industry, estimated at Rs 4.2 lakh crore in FY19. Dine-ins are 75 per cent of the organised restaurants, with online delivery or takeaways making up for the rest.
In the meantime, restaurants have the more urgent task of rebuilding confidence. They are examining how hygiene and social distancing protocols can be implemented. For example, businesses will rely far more on home delivery than before due to the lockdown. Cloud kitchens are also finding it hard to service with food delivery hit hard. Delivery focused food companies like Zomato and Swiggy are facing the loss of sales and market share is dropping. The recent unlocking of restaurants in Delhi NCR has not seen a major cheer amongst restaurant owners.
While QSR, bakery, cakery and food outlets plan to reopen, bars and clubs say they will wait as reduced timings, no alcohol permission, 50 per cent occupancy rules and lack of support from authorities make no sense to open again.
The lockdown has ensured that many more members of the family started to enter the kitchen, and cook. Dads. Teenaged sons. Working daughters. Most of them have had good practice over the weeks at home with the griddle, the pan and the oven.
Many chef-driven, fine dining restaurants which were earlier focussed on providing customers a dining-in experience, will now venture into the delivery business. In the long term, this will completely change the landscape of the delivery business in the country.
Several celebrity Chefs are spreading positivity during lockdown by sharing new recipes daily and promoting cooking contests on social media apps to help people get creative and showcase their cooking talents. Even luxury hotels have their Chef's do live-cooking and share recipes on social media.
You can now order from your favourite hotel at the click of a button. Hygiene focus videos are being made by restaurant and hotels to drive home the fact that customers are safe. There are different business models being discussed and the future will have new revenue sharing models between landlords and restaurant owners if the business has to survive.
Players with high debt levels will face pressure to shut unprofitable outlets to save costs and raise money.
Large players with low debt will be able to raise money, but business revival remains a big question for them. With consumers turning more health-conscious, hygiene protocols at restaurants and supply chains will need to improve materially, which will increase cost.
It will take anywhere between twelve to eighteen months for the sector to significantly recover. From the financial losses. Approximately, 50% stand-alone restaurants in Delhi NCR will close down, says a top restaurant chain owner. The future trends in food are going to undergo a sea change. Deliveries will be the new normal. Vegan and organic food demand are now going to be a lifestyle trend that is there to stay. Many SME's have come up in the product space across the country promoting plant-based products, foods and more.
Technology is being vigorously promoted as an effective tool in social distancing and contact-less dining. My Menu, an international digital menu company, has introduced contactless QR ordering to replace the most common contact point in dining: the menu card.
With a common SOP (Standard Operating Procedure), which will include hygiene checks, reduction in guest capacity and tech-friendly service, every individual restaurateur is preparing a roadmap for the future.