By Sharon Thambala
Bengaluru, June 22 (IANS) More than three weeks after the cautious phased Covid-induced lockdown relaxations, the virus and the restrictions it brought with it continue to sting the city food and beverage outlets and hotels, depriving them of business and footfalls.
“Most hotels continue to suffer single digit occupancy in the range of 3-4 per cent despite the relaxations. We have not seen any improvement in our business,” a senior city hospitality executive told IANS.
Many hotels in the city reaped good business from IT employees and their companies in normal times, most of whom are now working from home, depriving the hospitality sector of crucial client base.
So serious is the situation that many five-star hotels have asked some of their employees to stay at home until they are called, after giving them two months’ salary for June and July as advance.
Similarly, some contracted employees did not see they contracts being renewed. Many of such employees are hoping for normal times to return so that the hotels will call them back.
Working on a lean staff model, a chain hotel has tasked its stewards to garner food orders from guests.
“We have to call a list of guests, build confidence in them about the Covid precautions we have taken. Inform them of the promotions we are running and invite them to the hotel. Additionally, we also have to generate food home delivery orders,” said a hospitality executive.
Incidentally, some guests are visiting the hotels for day use purpose where they rent rooms in the morning and leave by evening.
As part of Covid precautions, a chain hotel has removed most of the cutlery, crockery and glassware on the tables, except for a bud vase and a small water bottle.
“No cutlery, no crockery or napkin. All orders are pre-plated and no guest is allowed to share food,” she said.
Likewise, only one person will handle the food orders.
Yet, a few table reservations got cancelled at the last moment in the restaurants operating at half their capacity.
Two days before and after every occupancy, the chain hotel is not selling the room to sanitise it, effectively, losing out on a lot of revenue compared to normal times.
Last Saturday, the food court at Prestige Forum Shantiniketan mall in Whitefield saw just a handful of people despite being a weekend, with most of the seats looking vacant and unoccupied.
Such scenes were rare in Bengaluru, a city which teems with a lot of employees, youngsters and families thronging the malls in the weekends during normal times.
“Because the multiplexes are not showing any movies and Covid precautions such as physical distancing, people are not coming out, depriving us of the business,” an executive of the food court told IANS.
Other reasons the executive cited included the absence of IT workers in offices, many people losing jobs and salary cuts at several workplaces, dampening the general mood and consumption desire in people.
“Nobody is spending much because of the prevailing uncertain conditions. And families with children are hesitating to venture out,” he said.
A few new hires and some under training, counting up to 50 people have been terminated at the HMS food court, with their full and final settlements given out while some employees are sent home on loss of pay.
Out of 10 outlets in the food court, only eight are operating with half the number of staff, reopening since June 8.
With lack of business and economies of scale missing any outlet which wants to reopen cannot simply wish away rent, utility bills and other overheads.
“Rather than doing business, nobody wants to simply pay the rent to the landlords,” said the executive.
Many food and beverage outlets have not yet opened their businesses in the city due to the prevailing uncertainty.
On a positive note, the Prestige Forum Shantiniketan mall has waived off rent to the food court outlets as long as they remained shut during the lockdown.
(Sharon Thambala can be contacted at [email protected])