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SPECIAL REPORTS

Cafes, restaurants get creative by making staff wear funky, eye-catchy masks
Saturday, 07 November, 2020, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Sonal Bagul
As the country continues to stabilise following the coronavirus outbreak, many state leaders have permitted doors to reopen for normalcy to how life was prior to the pandemic. One important element to attaining that normality for a few is the reopening of restaurants throughout the country.

While states such as Maharashtra, Goa, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal among others have allowed their restaurants to provide dine-in services again – with due consideration for social distancing guidelines – others, mostly smaller ones, have yet to move past open-air dining only. However, with social distancing still prevailing strongly, there’s no going back to having 10 people at a table, let alone larger groups. Besides, the government’s decision to shut everything by 11.30pm, coupled with 50 per cent seating, and limited menu has hit business hard.

One of the biggest reasons the sector has been impacted is the fact that restaurants typically operate on low profit margins and have extremely thin cash reserves. And though restaurants are barely making any profits, mostly in single digits, they are still expected to find a way to pay their utilities, rent, and deal with the inventory. For a growing number of eateries, the answer is to put a lock on their business permanently. By now, it’s no secret that the hospitality and food and beverage sectors are still recovering and dealing a heavy blow by the global crisis, and as they have begun resetting their businesses now, establishments are forced to continually consider the apprehensions of their clients.

Though it may sound strange but humans, despite being social beings, are now preferring to have minimal interactions. In fact, a lot of restaurateurs are now observing that there are diners who are not even collecting the change after paying the bill. Fortunately, technology is helping in keeping things contactless – thanks to digital payments and QR code menus. But the thought that first comes to our mind is, does not this entire activity affect the experience of dining out, which certainly is more than just good food? It of course does! Masked servers, functioning at 50 per cent capacity, and contactless service is making it difficult to give guests the warmest welcome. Elsewhere, modern-day cafes and restaurants are getting creative to fill this gap by making its staff wear funky, eye-catchy masks or one’s with their smiles printed to make up for not being able to show real ones.

What’s evident is that Indian consumers have been spoilt for choice of food and hospitality, but the industry will ‘struggle’ to go back to ‘normal’ – at least until a vaccine is out! Till the restrictions are relaxed and the curve is flattened, restaurants and cafes have no option but to keep social distancing measures firmly in place. Here’s where innovation can support the industry to attract the ones who are hesitant to step into eateries. The truth is, nothing remains 100 per cent secure, but everyone needs to take precautions.

(The author is marketing head at The Little Easy. She can be reached at Sonal@thelittleeasy.in)
 
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