A food package being picked up for delivery from outside Versova Social at Versova Link Road in Andheri West. Pic/Sameer Markande

Mumbai: Restaurants ready to serve you the new normal in two weeks!

By Dharmendra Jore Phorum Dalal | Mumbai

Updated: 29 September, 2020 07:04 IST

Government and industry find a way to open eateries in Unlock 5; guidelines and procedures will be finalised soon following consultations

After over six months of closure, restaurant associations have said that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has given in-principle nod to allow reopening of restaurants in Mumbai around the first week of October. The development came during a virtual meeting with various restaurant bodies on Monday.

The Chief Minister's Office (CMO) in its official statement called on all stakeholders to contribute to the SOP before anything is finalised.

Durga Bar, Matunga

City restaurants have been waiting with bated breath to be allowed to reopen for dine-in services. Delivery models have been a bloodbath with a low volume of orders and high competition.

On Monday, the chief minister and Valsa Nair Singh, principal secretary, Tourism, Excise, and Civil Aviation met restaurant associations including AHAR (Indian Hotel & Restaurant Association), NRAI (National Restaurant Association of India) and HRAWI (Hotel and Restaurant Association (Western India).

Chefs and kitchen staff at Impresario restaurants including Smoke House Deli will wear gloves, masks and face shields at all times

NRAI President and deGustibus director Anurag Katriar said, "The CM agreed in principle to allow reopening of restaurants by the first week of October. He also acknowledged that the food and beverage industry has suffered a lot since the lockdown began and that we are in this together," said Katriar.

"There were specific requests about fiscal and policy support, including rollback of the proposed increase in excise licence fee, charging it on pro-rata basis and allowing payments in instalments. We also requested for operations on terraces and open-air spaces abutting restaurants as that is more conducive considering COVID," Katriar said.

A shuttered Deepak Bar in Mulund

"The seating capacity will be at 50 per cent and can go up to even 60 per cent if the space is large enough. The CM entrusted us with the responsibility to ensure safe dining," Katriar said.

Small menus, no cold foods

Riyaaz Amlani, CEO & MD of Impresario Handmade Restaurants said, "The government is also ensuring that there are no bumps in operations once we open up. We have been operational in other parts of the country like Delhi NCR, Bangalore and Chandigarh, so we already have these measures in place since July. We are well prepared for Mumbai openings."

At Social, guests will have to scan a QR code on a tent card at the table to place their order; (right) not all tables will be available to occupy

The NRAI has created a 1,000-page SOP for the front of the house and heart of the house staff at restaurants across the country. Speaking about the changes in the dine-in menu, Amlani said, "The government has requested us to not put any uncooked or raw items on our menus. Also, to promote social distancing in the kitchens, menus will have to be shrunk. We've reduced our menus by about 30 per cent. An all-day menu is important as people will opt for freshly made food rather than cold foods like salads."

Mixed reactions

Pragnesh Rai, owner of SamBar in Khar and Deepak Bar in Mulund, had a mixed reaction. "I had a staff of 60 in Mulund and 30 in Khar. Now, we are giving delivery service with just 10 boys in Mulund and most of my staff at Khar have returned to their villages. Only delivery is not easy to crack. When we are ready to let people in, we will run at half capacity and not open all sections. I am not going to allow people to linger at the bar and will put up partitions. People must pick their orders and move back to the table. We will have to see how it works out, for now, we can only hope for the best."

Riyaaz Amlani, CEO & MD of Impresario Handmade Restaurants (extreme right), at a meeting on Monday with Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal to discuss the way forward for the hospitality business

For Anish Shetty's Durga Bar in Matunga with 60 seats, reopening seems like a double-edged sword. "My seating is low and at 50 per cent capacity, my license fee will be an overhead cost. If we pay R6-7 lakh licence fee a year, it comes to approximately 70,000 per month which I have to pay irrespective of the business volume.

"We had the concept of sharing tables. Today, no one will want to share a table with a stranger. In India, restaurants are demonised. Abroad, the governments are jumping in with policies and aid. But, the good news is that the first step has been taken, which will lead us to the next one."

The government's stand

The CMO said that the Unlock SOPs for restaurants have been prepared but not finalised yet. "The SOP document has been shared with all stakeholders. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has said that the decision about reopening the restaurants will be taken after the SOP gets finalised," said the statement.

Pragnesh Rai, owner, SamBar and Deepak Bar

The statement quoted the CM as saying, "The SOP is not an attempt to trouble you, but to ensure the safety of all, including customers and the workforce. We have to be very careful and responsible in restarting things."

Thackeray told all stakeholders to work together to finalise the SOP. "The implementation of SOP, cleanliness and social distancing will be a recipe for your restaurants," he is reported to have told hoteliers from Mumbai, Pune, Aurangabad, Nagpur and several other places.

A CMO official said that the CM asked hoteliers to share their suggestions with the state authorities. "The sentiment was that business should restart as early as possible. If it can't start in the first week of October, then the necessary permissions and SOPs should at least be in place by the second week," the official said.

NRAI's guidelines for restaurants

. Maximum 2 people in an elevator
. AC temperature between 24-30°C
. Relative humidity between 40- 65%
. Allow fresh air, cross ventilation
. Do not set tables before customers arrive, keep tabletops empty
. Give condiments in sachets, not bottles
. Give only bottled water, disinfect the bottles
. Avoid serving from platter to plate, have pre-plated food in menu
. Avoid bringing new glasses, refill existing ones
. Servers should not exchange sections or tables

NRAI's recommended temperature for air-conditioners

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First Published: 29 September, 2020 07:02 IST

Unlock 5: Restaurants gear up to reopen in two weeks in Mumbai

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