"I think delivery is the next best thing to dining in," says Hitesh Keswani

Hitesh Keswani, owner of Silver Beach Hospitality - Radio Bar, Estella, Silver Beach Cafe, Copa, Sirocco, The Terrace and Jantar Mantar and Nom Nom talks about brand loyalty and price points that were anyway an issue before the lock down and now will be even more so. Excerpts from the interview:

What was your first thought, when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic?

The first thought that came to my mind was about my staff. I instinctively knew we would need to stay closed for a long time. Their well being and survival was my main concern

Do you think people will venture to dine out again as pre-covid period?

The footfall will initially be less. This pandemic has been of an unreal magnitude and there is a lot of fear imbedded in people. Eventually things will bounce back but yes I think it will take some time for that to happen.

What are the major changes in operation that you see going forward?

Hygiene and safety will be off utmost priority for all restaurants and hotels. It will be the make or break factor for businesses. From social distancing being followed to staff presentation and behaviour, everything will be monitored closely by those walking in. Customers need to trust that the brand will always think of them first and the business later. I also see home delivery modules doing very well as people may prefer that to dining out, at least initially. I think this pandemic will have a huge impact on the kind of food people will want to eat. Immunity boosting, cooked in compared to uncooked, fresh and healthy will be there new mantra.

When the industry starts up again, do you think profit making will be a major concern?

I think that goes with the territory. From hiring lost staff to adjusting to guests sentiments, it's a long journey ahead

What are the biggest concerns for restaurants and the hospitality sector in the post lockdown world, and how can the industry adapt?

Hiring staff again, as many have gone back to their villages will be a major challenge. Adjusting to guest sentiments and understanding their wants in order to achieve brand loyalty in terms of menus and more. Understanding revised footfall and adjusting our man power, rents etc and most importantly following all social distancing and hygiene norms and ensuring the same is strictly implemented by our staff

Now that there is no escaping ‘restrictive social distancing’ how are you going to do the seating arrangements?

Depending on the space we will need to adjust the seating to ensure we follow all social distancing measures. Even behind the scenes in the kitchen, the team will have to re-adjust to minimum distance between work stations.

What long term impact will the coronavirus have on the restaurant industry?

It will take a while for people to trust going out again and it will be an individual battle for all brands to built that trust with their customer base. Financially the wait till be heavy so the real test will be how restaurants will sustain during the waiting period

If mentioning the fact that your restaurant capacity will go from 100% to 40% due to the social distancing rule – speak about what one can do to make money through other streams in hospitality. Generating new innovative revenue streams, during/post lockdown?

As mentioned earlier, I think delivery is the next best thing to dining in. It will really grow (even more than it already is).

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