Delhi: Restaurant owners say sales down by almost 70% since night curfew
A number of restaurant owners across the city said that their sales had dipped by nearly 70%, ever since the a night curfew was imposed from Tuesday onward to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Restaurateurs said that while the industry was already reeling from the after effects of last year’s nationwide lockdown, the latest night curfew had further hurt their interests. They said that the curfew timings requires them to wrap up services by 9pm — a crucial period for sales.
The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) on Tuesday had ordered a night curfew from 10pm to 5am till April 30 in the back drop of rising Covid-19 cases in Delhi. Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain on Wednesday said that the seven-hour-long curfew was imposed in the capital as people were found organising parties and other events where Covid-19 appropriate behaviour, like wearing masks and maintaining social distancing, were often ignored.
Delhi on Friday added 8,521 fresh cases at the back of 109,398 tests being conducted. The positivity rate of the city — proportion of samples that return positive among total tested — hovered around the 7.79% mark.
Delhi’s positivty rate has increased from 0.17% to over 8% within a month. Last month, the daily positivity rate hovered around the 0.17% mark. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that the positivity rate, for a region with a comprehensive testing programme, should be at or below 5% for two weeks in order to consider a viral outbreak to be under control.
Saurabh Suman, manager of Pebble Street in New Friends Colony (NFC), said that the restaurant’s sales had declined by 60-70% since the imposition of restrictions. Suman said that while the restaurant used to close around 11pm on normal days, the timing has been moved up to 9pm in view of the fresh restrictions. “People are not stepping out on account of fear. The footfall in the NFC market is also low. Earlier, we used to see huge crowds. Nowadays, we barely see 50-100 people come here,” said Suman. He said that while the restaurant had seen some improvements in terms of business in the first three months of the year, business was starting to nose-dive once again. “Things had started looking up since January. We did well last month as well. However, since the new restrictions were imposed, we are again losing a lot of business. The market is looking dull and our staff is scared about losing their jobs,” said Suman.
He said that while the government was taking all necessary steps for the safety of residents, it could make some concessions for restaurants that deliver food. “We are doing home-delivery till 11pm, so restaurants should be allowed to open till then at least,” said Suman.
Ramesh Kitchloo, founder of Samavar restaurant in Pamposh enclave, said that sales had declined by 70%. “Earlier, our sales would be around ₹80,000- ₹90,000 but now sales are around ₹20,000- ₹30,000 only. In normal days, people from far-flung places would visit our restaurant. Now, the footfall is less. Most people visit us during the day and opt for take-out,” said Kitchloo. He echoed that the curfew imposed by the Delhi government had exacerbated the financial crisis for restaurateurs. “The restrictions have ruined our prospects. This time, the impact is harder and much more severe. People had started holding marriage and engagement functions but all that has stopped now,” said Kitchloo.
SN Kaushal, senior manager of Kwality restaurant, Regal Building, said that sales had reduced by 50% since the imposition of fresh restrictions. “From August to November last year, we saw around 30-40% of sales as compared to pre-Covid times. Then our sales had slowly crawled up to the 60% mark between December-February. The sales have reduced again and are back to the 30-40% mark,” said Kaushal. He said that the restaurant was not taking orders beyond 9pm to ensure compliance with curfew timings. “We take the last order at 9pm so that we are able to vacate the premises by 9:30. The staff has to reach home before 10pm as well. The timings are causing problems,” said Kaushal.
In a statement issued by the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) on Wednesday, Kabir Suri, vice-president, NRAI, said that it was highly unlikely that the restaurant sector would be able to sustain the pressure any longer. “We were shut for the most part of last year. We have been operating at 50% since and have restricted hours. We had just started seeing a little surge in consumption, which had helped us in hiring back people we had let gone off earlier. Now, we have been left in a lurch again,” stated Suri, adding that the curfew timings affect the delivery business that contributes to the major proportion of revenue in their business.
Dr Jugal Kishore, head of the department of community medicine at Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital, said that in the current situation, it was necessary to curtail unnecessary movement to stop the transmission of infection. “The issue is that we need to stop movement to contain the infection. Light-night parties and outings need to be stopped especially when people are not abiding by Covid-19 appropriate behaviour. These restrictions have become unavoidable in the prevailing situation,” said Kishore.