Covid-19 crisis: Reopening leaves hotels, restaurants hungry for patrons

Customers at a restaurant in New Delhi on Monday. Photo: PTI
Two check-ins and nine reservations were made at The Grand Dame of Chowringhee (The Oberoi Grand) on Monday as it opened doors after a 75-day shutdown.

Sumit Joshi, general manager of The Oberoi Grand, said it was encouraging, even though the hotel was expecting a weekly count of 100 guests, compared to a daily visitor footfall of 1,000.

Extensive sanitisation has been conducted and seating arrangements changed in restaurants, to ensure social distancing. An immunity-boosting menu has also been put in place.

But protocols and confidence-boosting measures apart, hotels got off to a tepid start. The 230-room Sheraton Grand at Brigade Gateway (Bengaluru), saw seven check-ins and Vineet Verma, ED and CEO of Brigade Hospitality doesn’t expect much, even for the year ahead.

 “We may not see much traction until domestic and, more particularly, international travel truly open up. The other challenge — on the ‘food and beverages’ front —is the 9pm curfew that rules out dinner sessions,” said Verma.

ITC Gardenia in Bengaluru said it had received several queries on the ‘Safe Staycation’ packages. Many guests are keen on a city staycation at the hotel, said a hotel spokesperson.

In Ahmedabad, heavy rain and waterlogging were dampeners, with hotels like Courtyard by Marriott, and Hyatt, seeing dismal footfalls.

Arrival of new guests and online booking at luxury hotels in Hyderabad didn’t see much traction on the first day, too. “We hope to see some traction during the weekend,” said a Hyderabad luxury hotels association representative.

Restaurants — which also restarted on Monday — were a tad better, though the empty parking slots on Park Street (Kolkata) suggested it wasn’t business as usual in the city’s eatery zone. Flurys, the popular tearoom, saw some walk-ins, but it wasn’t anywhere close to normal levels.

Round the corner, six diners walked in during the first twenty minutes, after Peter Cat re-opened; over the next hour, 18 more trooped in. Though it was far from the usual brimming crowd, diners appeared to be at ease, even as they wore masks and occasionally took out a pocket sanitizer.

Owner Siddharth Kothari, at the restaurant to oversee protocols, said: “God is kind”. Kothari is banking on word-of-mouth to increase footfalls.

In Bengaluru, several top restaurants such as SodaBottleOpenerWala, Mamagoto, and Sly Granny are still shut.

Pan-Asian restaurant Misu — known for sushis and dimsums — hosted four couples for lunch and was awaiting a group of 12 for an early birthday dinner, with closing fixed for 9 pm.

“We want guests to feel at ease, and focus on food while we take all necessary precautions for safety of our guests and staff,” said AA Hospitality, which owns Misu.

Restaurants such as Uru Brewery did not see any footfall during lunch, but received several enquiries for an early dinner. Cafe chain Chaayos, which started dine-in services, saw two-thirds of its guests using contactless ordering app.

“Since morning, we have seen encouraging walk-ins. We expect a good response, with business picking up momentum as everyone tries to return to their normal lives,” said Raghav Verma, co-founder of Chaayos.

The food business in malls, however, took a beating. The food court at South Delhi’s Select CityWalk wore a deserted look, with only a handful of smaller outlets operational.

From KFC to Canventer’s and Beer Café, key eateries that used to draw crowds to the common seating area were shut. Smaller brands like Hotel Sarvana Bhavan were operational.

Refuel — a juice parlour — however, managed to attract a group of five with its freshly cut fruits and shakes.

Half a dozen employees at Taco Bell outlets were busy cleaning and maintaining the stall. They say, while final instruction on resuming operations is still awaited, they have been asked to prepare for a reopening anytime soon.

Such activities at the other popular eateries on the third and second floor of the mall — Mamagoto, Burger King, and Yum Yum Cha — is missing. The outlets, like many others, are shut with two-month old notices at their entrance, announcing their status to the patrons.
With inputs from Vinay Umarji & Dasarath Reddy Bhuswam

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