Interview – The great lockdown to permanently shut up to 35 percent of India’s restaurants

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A large chunk of public services and private business might be getting back to normal, but economic devastation caused by the Great India Lockdown triggered by fears over Covid-19 has created a huge crisis for the country’s restaurant business, the head of the apex industry body said.

Anurag Katriar, President, National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) and chief executive officer of deGustibus Hospitality told indoasiancommodities.com in an interview that crisis would permanently shut thousands of eating places across the country.

“My own feeling is that about 30-35 percent of restaurants would shut permanently across the country. And this would not only comprise stand-alone units, but also strong chains who may opt to bring down the number of their operational units,” Katriar said, responding to news that more than 300 restaurant in Gurugram had downed shutters since the beginning of the crisis.

Anurag Katriar, President, National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) and Chief Executive Officer of deGustibus Hospitality

He welcomed new government regulations that now allow restaurants and hotels to get their operations closer to normalcy, but maintained that the current 2020-21 financial year would eventually end with colossal losses for the industry.

“Our annual sales in the pre-Covid era was close to Rs 4.25 lakh crore and in the first five months there has hardly been any business. At the end of the year, the best we can do as an industry in terms of annual sales is to reach close to Rs 80,000-Rs 90,000 crore, which would mean an erosion of nearly 80 percent of our business,” Katriar said.

The NRAI has more than 500,000 members across India.

Katriar said bars and banquet would take longer to recover as people are still keep a distance over fears of contracting the virus.

“After unlock 4.0, the segment which could recover fast is the non-premier restaurants. But because of social distancing norms, the recovery in other segments would not be that swift,” he added.

Speaking of the possible support from the government, Katriar pointed to a couple of measures that he said could immensely help restaurants business as they grapple to put their house in order.

“We are not expecting any monetary dole out from the government. But if it could help us with an easier and relaxed credit line from the banking sector, it could be a positive intervention for us. Secondly, if state governments can extend our licenses by a year, it would be a good support at such a critical juncture,” Katriar said.

Ritwik Sinha chased trucks in his childhood, without realising logistics would become a deep love for him. Inherently a television man, he now spends long hours interviewing key people for our very popular YouTube channel. Podcasts are next on his list. In his free time, Ritwik is either looking for a warehouse filled with commodities or hitching a ride on a cold truck – all of which yields great stories!

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