This Could Possibly Be The ‘New Normal’ Of Dining In India

by Kanika Sharma
This Could Possibly Be The ‘New Normal’ Of Dining In India

Remember the time when you would walk into BKC in Mumbai and decide then where to go next? Or for that matter, Cyberhub in Gurgaon used to be bustling with people all night and day. Let’s not forget the microbreweries of Bangalore or the street food of Delhi’s Chandni Chowk. None of these experiences are going to be the same again; for a while now. But this definitely will open doors to an innovative and new way of dining, which has got us slightly excited. Many experts believe that 2020 will go down in history as the year that redefines dining out; just like the time when digital apps and aggregators changed the ‘normal ways’.

Around 20-40% Restaurants May Not Survive Lockdown

“The restaurant industry contributes to more than 2% of the  GDP. We are the second largest employer in India employing 7.3 million people. Given the kind of impact the pandemic has had, there is a very chance that it will take 6-8 months for restaurants to be operational again; and around 12-14 restaurants to return to normalcy,” says Zorawar Kalra, CEO, Massive Restaurants. He further adds, “There are estimates that 20-40 percent restaurants may not even open post lockdown.”

“It’s extremely disheartening to see what the restaurant industry is going through and it hasn’t been an easy road for us. We have made through many changes like the GST, and the ban on liquor being sold in restaurants located within 500 metres of the highway. So we, as an industry, has seen various changes; but no one predicted this and it’s unfortunate that this will effect so many of us in such devastating manner,” says AD Singh, Managing Director, Olive Group Of Restaurants.

Shift From Outdoor To Indoor

For those who were craving for meals from their favourite restaurants, didn’t have to wait too long either. Hotels and some iconic restaurants started delivery services. Delhi’s Big Chill Cafe, which has never been known to be on any delivery app, ever, started the service to cater to its customers. Similarly, restaurants like SodaBottleOpenerWala, Grammar Room and Olive, too, started delivery of their selective menus.

During pandemic, as shutters were pulled down on restaurants, the kitchens continued to remain open. Once the hygiene guidelines and safety measures were in place, home delivery of meals started. “We complied with WHO guidelines to make sure that all the meals that are being delivered at the doorstep of customers, are well sanitized,” says Karan Nambiar, owner of Bar Cat, Big City Pizza, Captain Chang, Captain Grub.

Also read: Delhi’s Big Chill Cafe Might Start Delivering Soon!

With all the delicacies available at your doorstep, would the consumer still want to step out? Once the lockdown is over, yes. But they definitely wouldn’t want to venture out or discover more, but stick to the selective and trust-worthy options. 

Restaurants To Focus on Hygiene And WHO Guidelines

A lot of restaurants are expected to put the hygiene and sanitisation on the top of the priority list. “We will make sure that all the tables in the restaurant are well distanced. Of course, you won’t be able to have a conversation with the servers like you initially did. There is going to be very little communication among people, but that’s going to be the new way to go about it,” says AD Singh.

“We will do sanitisation every two hours. We will make sure we’re using ultraviolet lights to check the table before we turn it over. All our guests and employees will be checked for temperatures. With respect to our employees, we will make sure that tests are done. We will make sure that they are wearing protective gear, gloves and shields and going to emphasise on physical distancing, even in our kitchens,” adds Zorawar Kalra.

Digital Dining

Many restaurants had already gone digital with their menus. Vapour Bar Exchange located in sector 29, Gurgaon, had their own application that you could download and place the order as and when the cost of the alcohol dropped. It was based on the idea of stock exchange. Similarly, Celini, Le Petit Chef in Mumbai started India’s first ever virtual dining. So, going digital is not a concept that is alien to India’s F&B industry.


However, seeing how comfortable the consumers got with that and so soon, the restauranteurs won’t shy away from introducing digital menus. This could be accessed by consumers through apps or scanning of QR codes. This means one thing, that you have to make sure that the battery of your mobile phone is full, otherwise dining out might just become a little tough. Who would have thought right?

What’s Going To Be In The Menu?

“One thing that we need to understand that it isn’t just restaurants, but a lot of other things related to the whole experience have been affected. The staff that has gone back to their homes, the supply chain, with the distancing measures, the possibility of having less hands on deck; all this would definitely bring about a change in the menu and service of a restaurant,” says AD Singh.

“The kitchen’s menu will come down but I think they will become more focussed. The quality will go up and the chef will probably focus on 25 dishes as opposed to 50,” says Zorawar Kalra.

Also read: The Future Of Dubai Restaurants Post Lockdown

According to researchers, immunity-boosting foods, superfoods, DIY meals, will all make a comeback and that too with a bang. The consumer had already started shifting towards healthy meals and organic food. This gave rise to farm-to-table dining, organic markets and so much more. It is expected that this will now be the star dishes, along with few other indulgences on the side.

What’s The World Upto?

While India is taking its own time to open doors of its restaurants, the world has already started innovating. A restaurant in Paris is trying out plastic shields as a way of practicing social distancing. Another one in Australia has invented inflatable tube tables that help people maintain enough distance and also are your dining tables on the go. Amsterdam has taken luxury dining a step further and has introduced glass-houses where you can dine with your plus one with absolute minimal contact even with your servers. Now, these ideas have definitely got us excited!

amsterdam greenhouse
Image Courtesy: Mediamatic Amsterdam

We, recently, got the opportunity to have a conversation with Chef Vikas Khanna, who owns New York’s Michelin Star Indian restaurant Junoon. While there were multiple things that he spoke about, regarding the industry, the scenario in the United States of America and all the food drives, that he has been trying to pull off in India, the one statement that really stuck with us, was that “Restaurants are an intrinsic part of culture celebration and they will find their way back.”

We raise our glasses to that!