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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Restaurants in Pune get ready for the holidays amidst the uncertainty of Omicron

Chandawarkar of Malaka Spice says that she has noticed that, while people were hesitant to go out, initially, they are becoming more confident as restaurants have taken a lot of precautions to keep everybody safe.

Pune |
December 30, 2021 12:31:55 pm
Restaurants, among the worst affected by the multiple lockdowns and changing timings, are fighting back by offering delicious food and atmospheric decor with an eye on the shrunk budgets of their potential clientele. (Express photo by Arul Horizon)

By Ashish Chandra

At Malaka Spice, a popular restaurant in Pune, the kitchen is rustling up delicacies from a special winter menu that was launched for December. “There is Yakitori, Teppanyaki, Japanese curry and desserts, among others. For the cocktails, we have tied up with a new brand, Smoke, which makes vodka from basmati rice,” says Ilvika Chandawarkar, Project Manager. Malaka Spice. German Bakery, on the other hand, has revamped its entire menu and added a host of new dishes.

As December draws to a close, people are beginning to step out to big goodbye to the old year and ring in the new with hope despite the threat of a new virus, Omicron, and a possible third wave. Restaurants, among the worst affected by the multiple lockdowns and changing timings, are fighting back by offering delicious food, tweaked menus and atmospheric decor with an eye on the shrunk budgets of their potential clientele. At PIE – Pan India Eatery, for instance, one can get starters, main course and biryani by the kilo, which is a more economical option for foodies of the city.

On Christmas weekend, the other special occasion of the yearend when footfalls increase in restaurants, The Daily All Day had prepared a Christmas brunch menu, complete with mulled wine and eggnog, and accompanied by live renditions of Christmas carols. Its Manager Janmesh Chopra said that he got a “decent footfall on the day with people coming in, enjoying themselves and singing Christmas songs together.”

He went on to add that, “For the new year, we are opting for minimum table billings rather than all-inclusive packages” because “it makes it more feasible on the customer’s pocket considering the current time.”

Nikhil Bedekar, Manager of The Irish House, says that there is ambiguity on the crowd size during the New Year celebration. They have not planned anything special, unlike pre-pandemic years, but clients are assured favourites such as Summer Garden Pizza, Nachos, Chicken Tender, and Leaky Fungii. “More than 50 percent of business has been affected due to the pandemic and the footfall, after we reopened, has been short of our expectation,” he says.

At all restaurants and bars in the city, the sanitiser has become a familiar presence. In most eateries and watering holes, staff have been vaccinated and COVID-appropriate behaviour has become a part of the new decorum, though diners take off their masks once they are in the restaurant to eat and to converse with their groups. “PIE had started just one year before the pandemic and we had to move to a smaller place since re-opening. With the new variant coming up, it’s going to be very difficult for the industry as a whole. We have to keep the staff and continue paying them their salary. We cannot let them go even in case of a lockdown, so that fear is always there,” says Devesh Bhatia, owner of PIE.

According to Chopra of The Daily All Day, nobody was expecting one more virus. “Screening at the entrance is crucial as a way to effectively create a bio-bubble within the restaurant among the guests and reduce the risks,” he says. Abhishek Khan, Manager of Prem’s Restaurant, said that, because of the pandemic, they had to decrease the seating capacity of their restaurant from 140 to 75-80.

Chandawarkar of Malaka Spice says that she has noticed that, while people were hesitant to go out, initially, they are becoming more confident as restaurants have taken a lot of precautions to keep everybody safe. “While everyone has been affected equally by the pandemic, these are very busy days for us in the industry, so hopefully that should be the case this year-end as well, especially since it will be weekend,” she says.

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