BY Varuni Trivedi
As restaurants and Malls open today after the Janata Curfew of March 22, one thing was crystal clear, that pre-COVID social life has drastically changed. The meals you casually had, the strolls to malls you normally took, and the busy shopping scene you witnessed won’t be a part of the ‘New Normal’ in the post COVID world. In many cities, one thing is clear, COVID-19 has changed the very face to dining and shopping.
Malls are expecting footfall to not exceed 20-30% in the first few weeks. Similarly, restaurants have employed new systems to enable contactless dining but even then expecting many customers is a far fetched dream.
Your next restaurant meal is going to be nothing like what it used to be before the pandemic. Restaurants have enabled contactless dining and acrylic food covers, which protect sanitized crockery and cutlery. Customers are expected to order their food online and use online payments as well. The central government has allowed Malls and restaurants to open from Monday. However, many cities across various states, like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu have restrictions on shops inside the malls.
All the malls were thoroughly sanitized before opening. Malls and QSR chains are stringently following the safety guidelines and the standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by their respective authorities. It has been ensured to the public that they are taking extra steps to ensure customer safety.
However, many malls and community centers are lacking clarity from state and district level authorities in order to restart dine-in services and operations. DLF and Pacific Groups considered the largest realty firm in India, have decided to not open their malls to the public yet. However, the Ambience group and Unity group have resumed operations at malls in the national capital and are following stringent post-COVID norms.
COVID-19 has had a massive effect on the entertainment and hospitality industry. The restaurant industry, as well as Malls all over the world, were hit hard by an economic crisis due to the pandemic. This resulted in thousands of people losing their jobs. Reopening this industry is surely complicated and industry leaders are navigating an unsteady web of new rules and regulations.
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As the world grapples with the pandemic Malls and restaurants in India have opened for now with steady hope and a lot of caution. Each State Government in India has laid down their own guidelines and rules. Uttar Pradesh government for instance says Malls can be opened but shops inside Malls will not be opening. Whereas, Tamil Nadu does not allow air-conditioning in restaurants for now.
Many industry experts say that it is a doomsday scenario for Malls and Restaurants as people will be scared of public places and avoid them as much as possible. It is predicted that about 15-20% of restaurants may not reopen at all, even if they do then sustaining them will be the real challenge. Under these circumstances, with increased costs, reduced income, and less manpower the industry is set to suffer.