Make eating out cheaper and attractive to locals
Although more than four months have passed since restaurants reopened in the state after the unprecedented lockdown in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic their owners are struggling to earn enough. Some restaurants have opened, others continue to remain shut, and still others have wound up their business for good. Restaurants have been attracting about 10 percent of the number of customers they used to get before the pandemic. After the state government allowed restaurants to reopen on June 8, the business for those that opened has not been picking up. According to industry captains only a few restaurants, who can run their businesses up to 50 percent capacity as per government directives, have been able to attract the numbers that can help them stay afloat, while others are struggling to earn even an income that can meet their operational costs. Many restaurant owners have defaulted on loans and payment of rent but are carrying on with the business in the hope that the situation would improve and clients would return.
Much like other food businesses, restaurants across the state have suffered a crippling blow in the pandemic owing to the prevailing fear of infection. The woes of the restaurateurs have been compounded by the increase in the prices of essentials including vegetables which forced them to raise their prices in order to pass on the cost to the clients. That has also proven to be a negative factor in the business. The general economic setback has led to fall in incomes of the classes, high and low, during the pandemic, as a result of which people are reluctant to spend on eating out in restaurants, especially when the prices have been hiked. With the coronavirus down and the fear of a second wave, most Goans give their favourite food joints a miss to protect themselves from the disease as well as save some money. Many restaurants also suffered as the government did not allow them to serve liquor till September 1. In the process the government too lost substantial revenue that it used to collect from excise duty on liquor. Though the tourist inflow has begun, the footfalls at the restaurants are far from being what it was in normal times.
The restaurateurs do not see a recovery any time soon. Some feel that it could take up to two years; others feel that it could be sooner than later. They are worried about the present situation because a further delay in attracting clients could have a devastating effect on their business. With the various packages of the central government failing to lead to economic revival, there is possibility of some of the restaurants closing down, thereby depriving the owners of the economic resources and rendering many of their employees jobless. Such a situation could add to the grim unemployment scenario in the state and would have not only economic but social impact as well. It is a known fact that food in most of the Goan restaurants is much costlier than at other tourist places as the owners have been targeting the tourists who can afford it. But with tourist footfalls not as it used to be earlier, the restaurants find it hard to attract clients from the local population who can afford high prices.
The restaurants should try to get more local customers by lowering the prices and tweaking the menus. Increase in volume of sales can help to offset the losses that the restaurateurs have been suffering. The government can help them by ensuring that the prices of essentials are under control. It has to be noted that transporters have passed on the increase in cost of fuel to their clients and the circle has been completed by making customers pay higher prices for the food they consume in restaurants. Now that the threat of spread of coronavirus has subsided to a large extent and the number of cases has been falling there is possibility of people returning to restaurants. However, it is for the owners to make eating out attractive for the people without compromising the safety standards. The government too should work out other measures to help restaurant owners overcome the crisis.