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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Mumbai restaurants, bars get ready to open but face manpower and space constraints

Apart from dearth of staffers, for a space-starved city like Mumbai, restaurants face the difficulty of churning out profit while ensuring physical distancing amid fewer tables.

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai | Updated: October 2, 2020 12:17:09 pm
mumbai unlock, maharashtra unlock 5.0, mumbai coronavirus latest updates, restaurants mumbai closed, mumbai bars open, restaurants mumbai open, mumbai city newsAt a restaurant in Andheri on Thursday. (Photo by Amit Chakravarty)

From calling in architects to create a new layout for their premise, trimming menus, to making constant calls to hiring agencies and existing staffers to return from villages, restaurants, cafes and bars are gearing up for reopening on October 5.

Love & Latte, a cafe with 13 outlets across Mumbai and Pune, is reopening six of its units from October 5. “We plan to make customers sit at alternate tables. The entire staff will wear face shields, gloves and masks, and there will be a sanitiser bottle at each table,” said head of operations Shridhar Manickan. He added that customers will be expected to wear masks while placing an order at the counter and once they have finished eating.

The standard operating procedure (SOP) issued by the government has asked restaurants to ensure there is no overcrowding, customers pre-book their tables and a separate waiting area. Bar counters and tables have to be disinfected regularly, and raw food like salad and cold items have to be avoided.

Apart from dearth of staffers, for a space-starved city like Mumbai, restaurants face the difficulty of churning out profit while ensuring physical distancing amid fewer tables.

Uday Shetty, who owns several restaurants in Mumbai and Thane, said, “In smaller spaces where tables are actually connected to one another, physical distancing becomes difficult. We are not sure if families will be willing step out to eat in a restaurant.” His staff of 52 are yet to return from their native villages.

Shivanand Shetty, president of Indian Hotels and Restaurant Association, said, “For smaller joints like Udipi restaurants, separating tables is not an option. They may have to put up a partition between two tables as a safety measure.” He added that not all restaurants are ready to open by October 5 and it will take several weeks for all to start operation.

Sukesh Shetty, who owns Hindmata restaurant in Mumbai Central, said the challenge is to encourage people to visit. “It will take time,” he added.

Shetty said they will take temperature and register cellphone numbers of each customer to help in contact tracing if a positive Covid-19 case is diagnosed. He is also reducing options in his menu – he has done away with continental dishes and will only serve Chinese, Indian and South Indian cuisine to avoid overcrowding of staff in the kitchen.

Independence Brewing Company, which specialises in crafted beers, has started calling its regular customers to check if they would be willing to return once the restobar opens. “We are not reopening on October 5, we will wait for a few days to see the response,” said manager Kuvar Gujral.

With the new SPO for restaurants and bars mandating a metre distance between two tables, Independence Brewing Company has employed architects to come up with a new layout. Their Andheri West joint has seating arrangement for 80, which will now be cut down to 40. “We also have to call our kitchen staff back from their villages,” Gujral said. While the restobar has started delivery of crafted beer, its kitchen remains shut since March.

Mumbai has over 15,000 restaurants, of which 2,500 are bars with licences to serve liquor. Bars with discotheque facilities have not been allowed to reopen yet as maintaining physical distancing is not possible. Bar owners said they expect customers to drink responsibly so that they do not need to be physically handled in an inebriated condition.

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