Word about easing of lockdown and opening up of restaurants and hotels from June 8 was greeted with eagerness laced with trepidation in Hyderabad. On Saturday evening, the Ministry of Home Affairs outlined new lockdown guidelines that allow hotels, restaurants and hospitality industry to function from June 8.

“This is great news. But right now for us it is about sustaining and we will stick to take-away as we are not prepared for dining in the absence of robust systems to ensure customer safety,” says Nishant Sinha of Roastery in Banjara Hills.

In many countries where the hospitality sector has been opened up after the COVID-19 lockdown, new seating arrangements have come into play. Instead of menu cards on table, the old practice of writing on the wall has been resumed. Food choices have been reduced to cut wastage. In Hyderabad, a glimpse of this was available with take-away being resumed by many restaurants over the past fortnight.

“It is ‘something is better than nothing’ scenario and the Day Zero for reopening has to start somewhere. Most restaurants are anyway operating take-away. This is a logical extension,” says entrepreneur and foodie R. Ravikanth Reddy.

Limited hours

But not everyone is happy about the reopening with limited hours. “It is a good move. But now we are not sure whether customers will come back. How do we regain customer confidence is a big question. Unless we can run to full capacity and normal working hours it will be a difficult,” says S. Venkat Reddy, a hotelier and president of Telangana State Hotels Association.

“I am getting calls from hotel owners who are being pushed to pay rent and electricity bills. Once they open up, their vendors will start asking for money, that’s a big worry. Nearly 40% of hotel and restaurant staff have gone back to their native places. It will take time before they come back and we can put systems in place,” says Mr. Reddy.

“A large chunk of our staff has gone to their native places in West Bengal and Odisha, they have been in quarantine. Even if they come back I will have to have them in quarantine here before they start working for us,” says Mr. Sinha.

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