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Suman Prasad

In a major relief, the government had recently allowed hotels and restaurants to resume takeaway and home delivery of foods. While most of the eateries have started delivery of food within proximity through their staff, a majority have partnered with app platforms like Swiggy and Zomato to maximise the outreach. Dunzo further allows reaching the customers irrespective of the distance.

While life is returning to normalcy across the country, the number of Covid-19 cases are only increasing. Hence, it will be interesting to see whether diners flock to their favourite restaurants once it reopens on June 8 or will they continue to order food at home from app platforms.

Hospitality Consultant and Founder of Bangalore Foodies Club Raunak Kundu said the organisation recently conducted a poll asking its members if they will visit and dine in a restaurant with all the precautions.

“Interestingly, only 15% of the total respondents replied in affirmative, while 21% showed interest only for delivery or takeaway and a humongous 64% had an unfavorable response. The poll result shows how the food lovers are reluctant to take a step out and visit their favourite restaurant for dine-in irrespective of all the safety measures in place,” said

Bangalore Foodies Club is a private group of food lovers with over 170,000 members. Hospitality Consultant and Founder of Bangalore Foodies Club Raunak Kundu believes that the diverse consumer segments will react differently.

“Confidence building measure from the restaurant community will play a major role over the next few months in getting people back to dining out,” said Hospitality Consultant and Founder of Bangalore Foodies Club Raunak Kundu.

Amit Roy, Partner at Thinktanc which helps plan, set up and run restaurants, bars, and cafes, says that the current F&B industry scenario is very bleak and uncertain.

“People do not have any funds and with the banks also uncertain about backing hospitality projects, any funding for working capital is also doubtful. Right now it is about survival,” said Thinktanc Partner Amit Roy.

Home deliveries will play a crucial role in the present, agrees “Chethan Hegde, Partner at 1Q1 Kitchen & Bar. However, he also believes that the unique experience of enjoying a meal or cocktail outside the home at any favourite restaurant is irreplaceable. He is optimistic that it will ultimately take its natural course back. He adds, “Until then, deliveries will continue to bloom and we are confident both, dine-in and online orders will thrive side by side.”

Dunzo has been delivering essentials as soon as the government regulations came in and their average order value has increased by 4X. A Dunzo spokesperson said, “While a lot of users who traditionally preferred eating out may have been ordering in during the lockdown, it is quite possible that out of caution, personal safety, or other limitations, they may choose to continue staying home and ordering in from their favorite restaurants. However, on the flip side, since many of those who enjoy dining out will now be able to do that again, restaurants will have to communicate to their patrons more frequently and put in place extra safety measures to welcome returning customers. 

Looking at the current situation and rising fear to contract coronavirus, restaurateurs are anticipating the in-flow of dine-guests after the properties reopen. “I think dine-in would see a 60-70% drop and this would gradually increase over the months to come as a V-shaped growth,” said XOOX Brewmill Founder and MD Rekhansh Karamchandani

“The inflow of guests for dine out is directly dependent upon the cases in every city. Dining out is not considered an essential activity, hence most of the customers would resort to getting food delivered or a takeaway to reduce maximum exposure and contact with people. The likely trend would have a massive impact on walk-ins in the days to see,” he added.

On the contrary, Toscano Restaurants conducted a survey that was carried out with close to 15,000 patrons said they do not have any apprehensions about eating out after the restaurant reopens. While 37% of the respondents said they are comfortable visiting the restaurant and only 12% is comfortable ordering online. However, close to 47% of the respondents said that they are comfortable with both modes and will switch between visiting restaurants and ordering online.

Hotels, Restaurants Reopen Amid Chaos: Will Diners Like Home Delivery, Dine Out? 2

“We have been in lockdown for almost three months and people are waiting to go out,” said Abhinav Varma, Group Manager, Marketing Communications at Toscano Restaurants. “There will be a change in the way people assess brands, hence we have ensured top of the line processes for maximum guest gratification in these trying times. Winning their trust is of utmost importance,” he adds.

Hotels, Restaurants Reopen Amid Chaos: Will Diners Like Home Delivery, Dine Out? 3

Similarly, dining out and table reservation platform, Dineout conducted a survey across major Indian cities where 77% of the respondents said that they wanted to dine out while 23% would prefer continuing with delivery or takeaway.

“Human beings by nature are highly social and they cannot be kept under lockdown for an indefinite period,” said Aslam Gafoor, General Manager – Luxury Dining at Dineout.  He adds, “We go out to restaurants to celebrate, a birthday maybe, or hang out with office friends over a coffee or simply for a family reunion. It is in our DNA to hang out with our near and dear ones.

Hotels, Restaurants Reopen Amid Chaos: Will Diners Like Home Delivery, Dine Out? 4

In keeping with the current requirements, ITC Hotels is conducting special training programs and precautions for personal, social, and workplaces are being explained to all associates for awareness and practice. They are re-engineering their guest experiences with zero/low associate engagement. Amaan Kidwai, General Manager – ITC Gardenia, Bengaluru said, “With the measures in place and the existent brand loyalty that ITC Hotels’ is known for, we anticipate dine-in guests post lockdown.”

Once the lockdown lifts for restaurants, diners will want to avoid non-essential contact and technology will play a very important role helps in reducing human intervention. “Our Dine-In interactive digital menu will help diners place orders through their smartphone via a QR code and they can also settle the bill digitally through scan-and-pay,” said Aslam Gafoor, General Manager – Luxury Dining at Dineout. “Feedback forms will also be sent via a digital link to diners thereby eliminating the need for pen-and-paper forms,” he added.

Hotels, Restaurants Reopen Amid Chaos: Will Diners Like Home Delivery, Dine Out? 5

Aditya George- F&B Director, DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Bangalore believes that the current situation will change the way many restaurants operated, and could either make or break the establishment based on how well they leverage the use of various technologies that are being made available.

“The service in restaurants will also undergo a transformation, where usually the norm of good service was synonymous with the quality of the interaction between guests and server. All this will change to limited interactions, based on social distancing norms, adopting contactless dining options, which could be perceived as very cold and robotic service,” he concludes.

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