The National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) has advised all its members to shut down their operations from March 18 till the end of the month in view of the increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases in the country.
NRAI counts restaurants such as Smokehouse Deli, Burger King, Red Mango, and the Social offline chains as members.
Earlier in the day, First Fiddle F&B Pvt Ltd, the parent company of well known restaurants like Lord of the Drinks, Plum by Bent Chair, Tamasha and Diablo said it will shut down its restaurants across the country from midnight Tuesday.
"In the wake of coronavirus we can't deny the fact that restaurants are places where social distancing can't be practiced. These are times when we need to think about our staff and patrons more than our business. At midnight today we at first fiddle are shutting down all our restaurants till March 31, 2020, across the country and we will be back with a bang once the virus goes. We also urge the govt to take similar steps for those who are open so that we can fight this out before it goes out of our hands," said Priyank Sukhija, managing director and CEO at First Fiddle.
While the industry admits it will face losses, it is taking this unprecedented step in light of the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
“We intend to work with all stakeholders in the ecosystem; from landlords to various departments of the Government, banks and financial institutions and seek their support in mitigating our losses as far as possible. This is an extraordinary situation and beyond our control and we expect support such as converting fixed rentals to variable revenue share, allowing input tax credit on GST, moratorium on loan repayment, waiver of interest, reduction on energy costs, deferred payment of license fee and taxes will go a long way in curtailing our astronomical losses,” the NRAI said in a statement late Tuesday night.
Sukhija said his chain has "initiated talks with landlords claiming force majeure as we cannot safely operate in these circumstances. "We are also negotiating longer credit terms from suppliers. Staff has been very cooperative to avail their leaves during period of time as they need to ensure their own safety and of their families. Despite these measures, business will still suffer losses," he said.
Restaurants and eateries in India have been taking steps like thermal monitoring of body temperatures, making hand sanitizers freely available to patrons and so on, but rising awareness and fast spread of the disease are making staff at these establishments uneasy.
India's number of confirmed Covid-19 cases was up at 137 on Tuesday, and the Centre and State governments have started putting contingency plans and social social distancing measures in place.
Countries like the US have shut down dine-in facilities in several states, and are allowing only delivery or drive-through options.
Iceland has asked restaurants to re-arrange their seating with at least two metres between seats, allowing only families and other groups in regular close contact to be seated together. Restaurants have also been asked to wash menus after each use and provide hand sanitation facilities.