As the process of ‘unlocking’ begins after Covid-19-related restrictions have been eased, eateries are operational again.
But the scene is very different from pre-Coronavirus days. The future of popular eating joints depends on contactless dining and self-checkout practices.
New norms and guidelines for eating out include cashless transactions, social distancing, and contact-less ordering. New apps as well as technology such as UV sterilisation are revamping the food business in India, and experts believe this trend is here to stay.
‘Contactless’ is the new buzz word
It’s hard to resist the pleasure of having a well-cooked meal at a good restaurant, and many people are now willing to take a chance and visit their preferred eating joints to savour their favourite dishes. Chetan Kaushal, a restaurateur, sharing a recent experience of dining out, says it felt odd to eat in an almost empty place, as many restaurants are experiencing low footfall.
He says, “Although the cases of COVID-19 are shooting up in India, the economy needs to keep functioning too. As dining out options are now open, I went to the Tenali restaurant run by an acquaintance, to have an Andhra meal. A lot of strict regulations and hygiene norms have been introduced, and I noticed changes in the serving protocols post lockdown. The waiters were wearing masks and gloves at all times, the menu was limited and written on a blackboard. We also had the option to choose disposable or reusable cutlery. Overall though, it felt nice to eat out after a long break.”
Keeping a distance
Most places have to work according to government guidelines, and safeguarding public health is top priority. Restaurants are double-checking to make sure all precautions are in place before the food reaches the table.
Zorawar Mann, Director of F&B at Le Meridien Gurgaon, says they have reduced restaurant seating by 50% and introduced a six-foot distance between each table.
“We ask customers to make reservations online, through Whatsapp or social media. We maintain hygiene protocols, including temperature checks, and observe sanitisation protocols from guest arrival to the contactless dining process. QR coded menus, contactless payment processes and social distancing between the server and the guests (6 ft. at all times) are the new norms of the food and beverage scene.”
To follow the new normal, eateries at malls are encouraging contactless dining through digital menus and payments. Especially during the weekends, when footfalls go up, many eating joints want customers to consider takeaway or home delivery options as well.
Prashant Gaurav Gupta, Business Head at DLF luxury malls, talks about the hygienic protocols and frequent sanitisation schedules at the MKT restaurant.
“We are strictly adhering to the WHO and MHA guidelines to give our guests a sense of trust at MKT. We have implemented safe distancing protocols, as the restaurant is running at a 50% seating capacity and we’re taking various other sanitisation measures such as deep cleaning of kitchens and guest areas. We have a UV cash sterilization box, and our sanitised crockery is carefully wrapped in clean packages. Use of face masks and shields is mandatory for all employees and so are regular temperature checks.”
Sterilise with caution
As food delivery apps gain steam, many restaurants are turning to cloud-kitchens and investing money in buying machines such as foot-controlled sanitisation equipment, temperature checking gadgets, and UV boxes. Annant Puri, director at Puri Electronics Pvt. Ltd., is sure that UV sterilization technology will soon be popular in the food industry.
He says, “While new research is being done on destroying the COVID-19 virus, one of the most effective ways now available is to sterilise surfaces with UV rays. We have been using the UV sterilisation box to kill viruses that may be present on non-living surfaces and it could be very helpful for food businesses, as vegetables, fruits and uncooked items can be processed this way to destroy unwanted bacteria and viruses. However, since the radiation could be invasive, it is very important to use it with caution and moderation, following proper instructions.”