How do Kolkata restaurant owners feel about the viability of the new 5-8 pm directive?
Safe, distanced dine-ins are set to resume in Kolkata for a restricted time slot, starting mid-June. Under the new relaxed mandate, restaurants and cafes can operate with limited capacity between 5 pm to 8 pm, but only with a fully vaccinated staff and under abidance of Covid guidelines. While restaurant chains and some Tier-I properties believe it to be a step in the positive direction, for modest independent F&B joints or new standalone properties, the unpredictably weighs quite heavy.
Entrepreneur Arijit Saha who owns the dine-in cafe Foodpath and the cloud kitchen-turned-open-air eatery Dhakai Handi had to draw the curtains on dine-in services from May, as instructed by the government. Though Saha plans on resuming dine-in services June 15 onwards, he isn’t sure about how productive the new set-up would be. “I’m not sure about the sustainability of the 5-8 pm time slot. What happens if there’s further expansion of the lockdown?” he remarks. Since, there’s apprehension about stepping out for leisure, this could be a bad time for businesses to resume operations, since most restaurants are working their way around deliveries, which is significantly less demanding pertaining to overhead costs.
However, some owners feel this is a good way to go for staff-run business, since it keeps the morale up. “It's a good move, the staff feels motivated to keep the work going. But in the long run, the question is when can we open at regular hours? That will probably be a while,” says Roshni Aditya, owner of Noodle Oodle, which has outlets in New Alipore, Dum Dum and Garia. 5-8 pm also invites peak cafe traffic and while Loafer’s Cafe’s manager Gazi Samim shares that their footfall has been minimal, some cafe owners are looking to make the most of the situation.
“5-8pm is still sustainable since we were already operational for deliveries and take-aways and this limited dining gives us ample time to scale up operations. The only challenge is that guest entries have to be limited to 5-7pm since the last order needs to be placed by 7:15-7:20pm,” says Abhinav Kumar, of the new-wave artisanal cafe Craft Coffee. Neighbourhood cafes, however, could get lucky since most people are anxious about using public transport. “Things aren't totally stable yet and opening up for three hours isn’t making that big a difference but people are coming in, especially regular customers,” says Radhika Agarwal who co-owns Salt Lake's newly opened Cafe Proof with Akshit Agarwal.