Bengaluru, Sep 16 (IANS) If the coronavirus pandemic is blamed for the soaring unemployment rate in the country, it has also opened new avenues like giving a boost to the mobile catering business in and around the city.
Speaking to IANS, Idli Dosa Coffee Kitchen (IDC Kitchen) Manager Dinesh Gowda said operating stand-alone restaurants or eatery joints has become more expensive and it has not been translating into a profit-making business as it used to be once.
“The IDC Kitchen has been operating as many as seven food trucks across the city with the help of a centralized kitchen. This is helping us not only to cut costs but also to make a profit to a large extent,” he explained.
The IDC was able to cut real estate costs and also the high upkeep cost of restaurants, he added. “If one opens a restaurant, he/she will have to shell out huge maintenance costs monthly besides ever-soaring rents in the city. The biggest advantage of being an owner of a food truck is that one can do business wherever there is a huge footfall or he/she can always move out. Whereas in the event of a stand-alone restaurant, it cannot happen as even if that restaurant is doing good business, some reasons like a heavy rent demand from the owner might ruin your business. Hence, it is always easy for food vans to move out in such a scenario,” he said.
Several restaurant owners on the condition of anonymity agree that mobile catering or cloud kitchens will be the norm in the future.
“Several food courts that were operating in software tech parks and malls have come to a standstill as most of this workforce had opted to work from home. As a result of this, food parks operating here have shut shop for the last six months.”
“There is no sign of them coming back to normalcy in the near future. Hence, it has become all the more imperative for most of the restaurant owners to depend on the mobile catering business,” an owner added.
Another owner said the main reason why many people were not ready to discuss this business openly was that it is an “illegal business” and government agencies start hounding people if one accepts they own such a business.
“So far nobody in this country has got a license to operate a food truck business. But whoever is operating in this sector, it is all happening in connivance with local politicians, local bureaucrats, resident welfare associations and police,” a source explained.
The food truck business is going to be the next new norm like work from home, the source added. “Work from home was not very popular, but now it is a norm. Similarly, the food truck business will also be a new norm,” the source said.
However, Bengaluru Hoteliers Association President P. C. Rao said there are 21,000 plus hotels, restaurants and bars operating in the city, of which nearly 18,000 have started operating since August.
“In the last one month, the business is slowly picking up but we have been able to transact only half of the business that we used to do in pre-Covid times,” he added.
According to him, the footfall in restaurants is increasing but people are still not open to dining out. “As many hotels have tied up with food delivery startups, home food delivery has become a new norm. This is going to stay for some time. With many people working from home, they have taken a liking to eat at home also. As of now, it looks like a norm but going by the rising footfalls in restaurants in the last fortnight, it may not be a permanent phenomenon,” he claimed.
The worst-hit among the hoteliers are lodge and fine-dining restaurant owners. They are still far from reaching break-even, Rao added.
According to an industry insider, the turnover of the 21,000 plus restaurants was roughly Rs 600 crore per month prior to the outbreak of the pandemic. It has now come down to Rs 200 crore to Rs 250 crore monthly.