As India plans to re-open in Unlock 1.0, malls and restaurants walk cautiously while adjusting to the new normal. The lockdown, which brought many businesses to a standstill, is gradually being lifted, giving them a chance to bounce back. However, malls and restaurants are still being cautious of each step they take.
Mall owners are predicting a steep decline in the footfall at 20-30% initially. Restaurants, whereas, said that they will take some time before opening outlets for dine-in.
On Sunday, the Delhi government moved to open malls and restaurants and joined states such as Kerala, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana that have allowed businesses to resume. Retailers have been requesting mall owners to adopt a revnue-sharing model for a long time now but have seen no progress.
Agreed Alisha Malik, vice president, e-commerce at Metro Brands Ltd, that operates 500 stores for footwear brands Metro, Mochi, and Crocs. “50% of our stores are now open. But to re-open our stores in malls, we are in talks for revenue-share deals based on the sales we are able to clock. The talks are happening in good spirit but till the matter is clear, we do not see our outlets in malls opening,” she said. She further said that they have been able to re-negotiate rental deals with all its high-street stores.
Malls in Delhi said they are awaiting a set of guidelines from the Delhi government and will re-open their properties only after that. “In the first few days, we expect footfalls to be around 30% of pre-COVID levels, all tenants are on stand-by to open up,” said Abhishek Bansal, executive director, Pacific India that operates malls in the Delhi-NCR region. Bansal said the developer has reached some level of agreement on rent with tenants.
High-end restaurants in Delhi and Gurugram, however, are skeptical of the order to open under restrictions. Chef Manish Mehrotra who runs Indian Accent at The Lodhi and Comorin in Gurugram commented that there is still no clarity on serving liquor. “And with the 9 pm curfew, they cannot serve dinner. Plus working with 50% seating capacity would not make business sense,” he said. Agreed Nakul Chandra, chief executive officer of Riga Foods , “We are waiting for the detailed order. But under these regulations, most restaurants will bleed. But it makes sense for cafes with no liquor license and Quick Service Restaurant formats to open.”
Furthermore, Pizza Hut plans to open itself for dine-in customers in the coming week. Welcoming the move, Merrill Pereyra , managing director, Pizza Hut Indian Subcontinent, said that their store teams on-ground are working towards ensuring they are ready at the earliest.
“Pizza Hut is in the midst of rolling out contactless dine-in wherein right from accessing the menu to making payments, the entire process will be digital. Seating will be re-aligned and food service tables will be attached with dine-in tables to maintain social distancing between servers and customers. Temperature checks of walk-in customers, sanitizers at key touchpoints, and the wearing of masks by restaurant staff at all times will be ensured,” he said.