The damage the coronavirus pandemic has caused to the hospitality sector across the world cannot be overstated. Never in history has the industry seen a complete shut down of business as they have seen in recent times.
We have all read the reports of India’s GDP contracting by as much as 23.9% in the first quarter of 2020, this period did not even take into account the bulk period of the COVID pandemic. This number is representative of the average of all industries combined. One can only imagine how dreadful this impact would have been to the hospitality sector in isolation.
Although economists and statisticians expect the contractions to slowdown, there are still significant issues that will be plaguing the hospitality sector for years to come and we must do everything in our power to aid this ancillary industry. To this effect, this we have covered the steps that we as consumers and restauranteurs can take independently to ensure continual survival.
Capitalize On Marketing Efforts – By Advertising Safety
Since Governments are inevitably running out of money, lockdowns restrictions will inevitably fizzle out. Simply so that the economic costs of the lockdown don’t end up being much more deadlier than the health crisis of the disease itself.
Individuals will be comfortable dining out if and only the best practices are followed by the establishment to ensure public safety. You need not be a large fine-dining restaurant in order to ensure this. Even small cafes can maximize advertising on safety standards by displaying simple signs of precautions like – “we disinfect the café every 3 hours” OR “We undertake temperature tests/PCR tests every day”
Move To The Cloud-Kitchen Model
Even before the pandemic, cloud kitchens were all the rage. The asset-light model that helped deliver delicious food across the city helped keep costs low. However, this model will prove profitable only If you have a loyal clientele and margins that allow for significant wiggle room.
This is primarily because logistics partners like Zomato & Swiggy charge commissions that don’t make this model sustainable. Alternatively, restaurants should also aggressively advertise the pick-from-store model reduce reliance on delivery apps.
Offering quick drive-through services is a great option to get around this issue for the short and medium term.
Shifting the Target Audience
Most fine-dining restaurants boast a clientele that are in age groups that tend to be more vulnerable to the illness. That is between 40-70. These customers are not likely to be moving out despite the opening up of the economy simply due to the increased risk to their age groups. Restaurant owners should be cognizant of this fact and their marketing efforts & appeal to the restaurant should move towards attracting a much younger generation. However, it should also be noted that this strategy should be weighed for either a longer term strategy or a shorter term strategy as it would not be in the best interest of the restaurant to lose its main audience after this pandemic fiasco settles.
Space Seating Arrangements Out
Within a short span of time, governments have released several studies demonstrating spatial strategies to be used in order to minimize potential risks in the establishment. Restaurants in India are already starved for real estate and reducing the number of seating to make way for social distancing norms hardly seem feasible.
But necessity drives innovation. Restaurants in countries worldwide have been using double decker seating arrangements as a makeshift layout. (see picture below).
Several India based suppliers of restaurant furniture have already begun taking this up prudently and have started manufacturing these sets at scale to ensure. Others have advocated to enclosed seating options like moving to a restaurant booth instead of standard tables & chairs.
Moving Out in The Open
So far we have largely covered the actionables that can be undertaken by restaurant owners themselves. However, the battle to sustain the hospitality industry in India is not one that can be fought by professionals in the industry but one that all stakeholders must be involved in.
A trend popularized in the western countries & now the middle east is the emergence of outdoor seating arrangements. Studies undertaken by CDC in the US have shown that indoor seating have a 3-4 times higher likelihood of transmission as opposed to moving out in the open.
Unfortunately, the legal side of things in India is rather slow moving and due to the nature of fragmented land ownership in India, there are strict laws in place that do no allow for any encroachment of land to include outdoor seating. However, these are extraordinary times and it is the job of activitists and the general public to lobby for ensuring such provisions are put in place.
This process has already begun, Delhi’s law minister, Mr Kapil Mishra has notified the chief minister directly requesting a temporary annulment of previous laws that stifled restaurants from taking these measures up. (Source)
Through a concerted effort involving all participants and stakeholders of the hospitality industry in India, the industry is bound to come out stronger & much more resilient, the progress of which will inevitably flow to the other sectors of the economy.