When Cafe Turtle — part of Full Circle Bookstore enterprise — announced the closing down of its Khan Market outlet in the middle of the pandemic in June, it was just the beginning of a series of closures that followed — from Smoke House Deli to China Fare.
At Connaught Place, newly-opened Japanese restaurant Fuji and Garam Dharam also beat a hasty retreat owing to huge rentals and almost zero sales. Insiders predicted that more than 40 per cent restaurants in Delhi-NCR will be shut eventually.
A few months down the line, however, things seem to be looking up for the restaurant industry. Both China Fare and Cafe Turtle have announced their comeback in the market, even though at new addresses. “Though we are not going back to the same location, we hope to recreate our signature look with the blue and green theme, wooden flooring and a balcony,” stated Priyanka Malhotra, director of Cafe Turtle. The new outpost will be right next to the original, while China Fare reopens at the market’s rear end.
The Capital’s thriving restaurant industry was among the worst hit during the pandemic and consequent lockdowns and night curfews, with revenues hitting rock bottom, and an estimated five lakh jobs on the line.
Even after the government allowed restaurants to reopen in June, most of them in Delhi-NCR continued to remain shut due to rental disputes. While those in Khan Market, Hauz Khas Village and Connaught Place were expecting rental waivers during lockdown and rent cuts during recovery months, those in malls and shopping arcades sought a collective deal from the respective leasing companies. The National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) said more than 40% of restaurants in Delhi will be shut eventually.
The tide seems to have turned for the better now with several restaurants announcing their return across Delhi. At DLF Saket, Mai Bao — based on the Singaporean street-food concept — opens next month, while Pirates of Grill and Dhansoo cafe will have new outposts at Pacific Mall in West Delhi. Cafe Delhi Heights will have a new branch at DLF Saket, and Zorawar Kalra of Massive Restaurants (Pa Pa Ya, Farzi Cafe) has announced a fine-diner at Shangri-La, called Bo Tai Switch. “The restaurant industry is picking up slowly and we expect that soon people will gain the confidence in dining out more,” said Avantika Sinha, founder and managing director, Mai Bao.
Inderjeet Banga, promoter of Biggie Restaurants, which owns 13 restaurants across India, including Prankster and the Pirates of Grill franchise, said, “Surely, there is change for the better. We are buoyed by the fact that not just weekend dinners, but lunches and weekday dining has returned.”
Banga, who also heads the Gurgaon chapter of NRAI, credits it to the fact that night curfews are gone for good and restaurants have evolved protocols for social distancing and hygiene, which boosts the confidence of patrons.
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