Struggling to bring back customers, mall owners have pinned hopes on the Maharashtra government’s decision to allow food courts and restaurants to reopen from October 5 after a gap of almost six months.
Restaurants, bars, food courts and hotels are among the hardest hit sections of the economy as restrictions on travel and movement to curb the spread of the coronavirus have kept people away.
In the fifth phase of the rolling back of lockdown restrictions, the government has allowed restaurants, bars and food courts to open from October 5 but with a caveat. They will have to operate at 50 percent capacity, according to the ‘Mission Begin Again’ guidelines issued by the state government on September 30.
“Restaurants prove to be a perfect option for customers to grab a bite or a drink after they finish their shopping,” said Rajendra Kalkar, President West–Phoenix Mills Ltd, adding opening up of eateries will boost footfalls.
Mall owners say food & beverage (F&B) businesses are one of the biggest selling points of these shopping areas. The owners, too, are doing their bit to reassure nervous customers and re-align their strategies with the new normal.
“We are confident that our best in class safety SOPs such as crowd-density control systems, UV disinfectant systems combined with contactless dining initiatives will offer safe shopping and dining experience for the customers who are visiting their favorite brands and restaurants at our flagship malls across Maharashtra,” Kalkar said.
There are 650 large shopping centres that contribute over Rs 180,000 crore in sales annually, with 1,000 plus smaller shopping centres contributing another Rs 50,000 crore to the sales of the organised retail sector, data from the Shopping Centres Association of India says.
Viviana Malls, located in Mumbai’s suburb of Thane, is preparing for “seamless and hygienic dining” experience, which includes placing the order from the table and digital payments at the food court.
“Self-service Ultra Violet light-based disinfection boxes will also be kept in the food court to sanitise the ordered items and service-ware. Seating arrangements at the food court have been suitably rearranged in order to ensure physical distancing,” said Manoj K Agarwal, Chief Executive Officer, Viviana Mall.
For most malls, F&B is a popular section as customers who come for window shopping tend grab a bite at the food court or a restaurant.
In the last couple of months, only food deliveries were allowed. The latest order comes as a breather for the industry hammered by the pandemic storm.
Not just food courts, mall owners are hopeful that the reopening up of businesses and the larger economy will bring relief to lakhs of blue-collared workers and businesses that depended on them for their livelihoods.
Mall owners are also cheering the opening of theatres as the audience contributes in various ways to a mall’s business. However, multiplexes, too, can operate theatres at half their capacity to maintain distancing norms.
Movie-goers not only add to overall mall footfalls but they also significantly contribute to the F&B and retail businesses.
SOP for restaurants:
Restaurants should to keep the tables at least a metre apart.
Guests should be encouraged to make reservations to avoid crowding.
Most restaurants will have disposable menus. A UV-C machine to sanitise crockery, cutlery and glasses, sensor taps at handwashes and QR codes to make payments.
As per the guidelines, customers will have to be screened at the entry point for coronavirus symptoms such as fever, cold and cough. Only asymptomatic customers will be allowed in. Face masks are mandatory except while eating.
The restaurants will have to make hand or pedal-operated sanitisers available at the entrance and areas such as washrooms. Guests will be asked to sanitise their hands before proceeding to the seating area. Furniture should be disinfected on a daily basis, the guidelines say.