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Restaurants to open today, but owners wary of customers dining in, say drive-by model to become norm

Local restaurants and eateries in the city are all set to reopen on Monday, following strict guidelines set up by the Tamil Nadu government to prevent further spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Restaurants to open today, but owners wary of customers dining in, say drive-by model to become norm
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A restaurant in the city being cleaned before opening on Monday

Chennai

However, restaurateurs say that the dining experience will undergo a sea change, with many not even banking on the dine-in practice anymore, claiming that the drive-by model will now be adopted by multiple places.

“Customers are afraid to come to restaurants because they can never be fully assured of the sanitisation process that goes on behind-the-scenes. Therefore, we have altered the way some items in our menu will be consumed so that the people can simply drive up, collect the food, eat in the car, and leave. It’s a safety issue and I would request the customers to opt for this option rather than dining in,” said Hitesh Khanna, franchise owner - Chennai, Bombay Kulfi.

As per the guidelines, restaurants are to enforce social distancing norms as well as regularly sanitise the premises. Customers and staff are to be checked for COVID-19 symptoms, but the biggest requirement is to keep the Air-Conditioners off. This has led to some interesting changes in decor in more than a few outlets. “Our Adyar outlet has plywood covering the windows as we usually run the air conditioning. I am having them removed and the windows opened up so that customers can enjoy the breeze,” said NS Krishnamoorti, founder, Prems Graama Bhojanam. However, the customer might not appreciate the summer heat considering the lack of air conditioning, feel some restaurant owners. Moreover, many eateries say that prices will be a little higher due to lack of availability of produce. According to Nitesh Surana, COO of Flower Drum, Adyar, these concerns can be relieved by maintaining transparency with the customer. “We decided to put our videos of sanitisation process online so that customers are assured of their safety when they come to eat,” he said. Customer retention will also be an issue, they predict, and many are devising different means to keep them coming back. One such person is Chetan Lodha, partner, Jugalbandhi, who said, “We are thinking of offering our customers coupons worth high denominations when they come in to have them return later on to redeem them. However, we are expecting more package and to-go orders as city locals are concerned about safety amid the rising number of positive cases in the city.”

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