In recent years, many enterprises in the food industry have garnered popularity amongst the youth. Restaurants in the country imperatively stay on the lookout for the latest trends in the market and piggyback on them to attract young customers, who are always looking for new experiences. The Covid-19 pandemic, however, has not only halted our plans of going out to eat, but also adversely affected restaurateurs.
"It has been difficult for us to stay afloat. I have had to let go of close to half of my staff members over the last year. We had to work just to break even. The fact that constant expenses like rent and electricity bills were not exempted in some manner, only added to our problems," shared Mufti Sanaullah, owner of Burger LAB.
Although the recent announcement that eateries can serve food keeping half of their seats vacant came as a big relief for restaurateurs, they had to face many setbacks since the pandemic hit.
Ashfaq Rahman Asif, owner of Tarka and 138 East, said that there is no exact blueprint of what restaurant owners should do during movement restrictions caused by a pandemic. "The hindrance in the operations of the food industry does not only affect restaurants. Wholesalers of imports and exports incur losses as well, considering families do not buy in bulk like restaurants do," he added.
"I personally have had to cancel marketing decisions due to the sudden imposition of lockdowns. Just the basic regulation of keeping restaurateurs informed could have helped massively," said Ashik Alahi, owner of Burger Republic.
For a long time, restaurants were operating with delivery and takeaway services only. Labib Tarafdar, owner of Madchef, Cheez, and Pagla Baburchi, asserted that these tactics are not sufficient. "Deliveries take up at most six percent of our overall sales. We have had to spend a lot to put preventative measures in place," he added.
Farazi Ghani, managing partner at Laughing Buddha, said that restaurants are meant to be dined in. As a safety measure, Laughing Buddha has instilled an air purifier for their customers.
Shababa Ishmam, owner of The Red Window and Bheja Fry, had to use her business savings to keep paying her employees properly. Letting restaurants serve food at fifty percent capacity, is bringing her enterprises back to life in the most preventative way possible. All her staff members wear face masks at all times, and sanitise every spot, including the entrance, frequently. "We have kept the indoor seating service of Bheja Fry closed, but the outdoor seats are open. We ensure that people are sitting, following social distancing guidelines. We also keep extra face masks at the entrance," she added.
Although the industry was faced with harsh realities since the pandemic hit, as most of the restaurant owners explained, they are hopeful about the future, and determined to serve their customers while prioritising safety rules.
The author is a freelance journalist. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.