Covid, a year after: How F&B, hospitality sectors mutated, survived


By Sudeshna Dutta

From laundry services to providing chefs at home, several out-of-the-box solutions helped them scrape through

The food and beverage sector was one of the first to feel the impact of the covid. Much before the rest of Bengaluru went into a partial lockdown, the state government had ordered the closure of restaurants as early as March 20, and permitted only takeaways. Later, restaurants were allowed to open only in June and that too with social distancing measures. While this sector saw harsh losses, some managed not only to survive but did it with innovation.

The Den in Whitefield, the Israeli luxury hotel chain, had strict instructions not to cut salaries or retrench staff. So they looked at alternatives. “In April, an IT firm approached us to accommodate over 100 team members for a project. There were other guests at the hotel too, who had got stuck due to the lockdown,” says Vinesh Gupta, GM, The Den, Bengaluru. The Den also participated in the Vande Bharat mission, by offering their rooms at Rs 4,100 plus taxes per night, as quarantine facilities for passengers returning on these flights. Post Diwali, business picked organically with weddings and social events.

Apart from a seamless home delivery system, hotels offered services like laundry, butlers and chefs at home. “ITC’s WeAssure programme, has a range of services that helped us reach out to our guests with safety protocols,” says Amaan Kidwai, General Manager – ITC Gardenia. The pandemic also pushed the management to look at cost structures minutely, adds Manas Krishnamoorthy, General Manager – ITC Windsor.

JW Marriott Hotel Bengaluru ensured that there was no wasteful expenditure. Says Yash Bareria, Director of catering sales, “With the demand coming down, there were few requirements to procure items from vendors.”

Many hotels also introduced separate packages for workations and staycations to boost their sales and give people a break from working from home.

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Restaurants shine on

Chethan Hegde of 1522, a chain of bars, says, “We did not lay off anyone. We also brought down all operational costs by about 6 to 7 per cent. This way, we were able to open two new branches on Residency Road and RR Nagar, which were under construction,” he says.

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Renovating and relocating

XOOX Brewmill, a microbrewery in Koramangala, made investments in making the place ‘covid-friendly’. “When our pub opened, we noticed that guests preferred airy corners. So, we decided to build a retractable roof and remove air conditioners,” says the owner, Rekhansh Karamchandani, adding that the team had to let go of some employees after June. But whoever wished to return is are being welcomed back again. .

For Nirav Rajani, relocating his restaurant, Hanoi, from Koramangala to Indiranagar helped him stay afloat. “Last year gave me time to renovate my second restaurant, Patios, and install ventilators. We did not benefit much from home deliveries but had enough revenue for a makeover,” says Rajani, whose parent company, Sound Fusion, is registered as an MSME, which allows aid from banks to restructure loans and reduce fixed monthly cash outflow.

New stream of revenue

Azure Hospitality’s new stream of revenue also became cloud kitchens and a new retail line that they launched last year. “We started selling products like sauces, masalas and pickles from Mamagoto, Dhaba and Sly Granny through Azure Retail,” says Meetali Kutty, head of marketing.

Men with smart plans

Kuncheria Maratt, co-founder, Uru Brewpark, formulated a budget, raised money and utilised just this much and no more to survive the pandemic.

Khmer Kitchen’s Naveen Reddy opened a new restaurant in December 2020 but chose to run it as a cloud kitchen for 4 months, to test the waters.

For those who survived, like Amit Ahuja, owner of Misu, Lucky Chan and The Open Box, they hope that 2021 will make up some of the losses of 2020.



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Sagar Biswas

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