• Thursday, April 17, 2014

Restaurants run empty as political unrest lingers

Md Fazlur Rahman

Restaurants that cater for social and official events alongside individual customers have been hit hard by the political shutdowns and blockades as people are either putting their planned parties on hold or cancelling bookings.
Some restaurateurs say the reservations have dropped by at least 50 percent in the last two months, though the peak season for various family and corporate programmes has just begun.
In the worst case scenario, the restaurant owners have reported a business fall of as high as 80 percent as city residents have shunned unnecessary outings and eating out in group amid continuous street violence.
"The business has hit rock bottom," said Jahangir Alam Sohel, general manager of Heritage Fusion Cuisine, an upmarket restaurant in Gulshan-2 and a popular venue for pre-wedding functions, birthday parties, anniversary celebrations and official events.
He said restaurants in Gulshan and other diplomatic areas are frequented by foreign visitors.
"But the foreigners are not coming out of their residences or hotels due to safety concerns," he told The Daily Star, adding that his business has plummeted 70 percent since October.
Mahfuzur Rahman, in-charge of Shampan, a popular restaurant in Dhanmondi, said there have no reservations for social, family and corporate events. “I have never seen such a drop in business in the last couple of years.”
Anwar Hossain, manager of Star Hotel and Kebab in Dhanmondi, said the number of family events has started to go down with the onset of political turbulence.
"Many ordered reservations, but whenever there is any shutdown or transport blockade the booking is cancelled."
Hossain should feel luckier as his three-storey restaurant was still found half-full with customers on Sunday evening.
Eateries such as China Kitchen in Hatirpool and New Chingri Chinese Restaurant in New Elephant Road were not that fortunate, as they were found completely deserted during a visit on the same evening.
SM Asaduzzaman, owner of Chingri, said the eatery had only two bookings this month in contrast to the 20 to 25 group events on average every month.
He said if the current situation lingers for another month many small and medium-sized restaurants-cum-party centres would go bust. "How long can we afford to incur losses?"
Some eateries say there are some walk-in diners, but their number is so low that they cannot make up for the shortfall in group reservations.
Restaurateurs say although their businesses are bad, they still keep their doors open for people to come. In the process, they have to bear huge operational expenses in terms of staff salaries, utility bills and rents, no matter whether there is any sales or not.
He said if party centres are closed many linked businesses would also be affected. "Besides, many people will go unemployed."
Asaduzzaman, who employs 30 full-time staff, said he has to spend Tk 3.5 lakh a month to keep the restaurant running “no matter whether there are any sales or not”.

fazlur.rahman@thedailystar.net

Published: 12:00 am Thursday, December 26, 2013

Last modified: 10:05 pm Thursday, December 26, 2013

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