Business at the fast food stores in the capital is gradually recovering but customers still prefer ordering food online to eating out.
Fast food sellers said online orders now account for at least 40% of total sales. This is the result of many customers not feeling comfortable going to eateries to have a meal amid the pandemic.
Several big fast food stores in Dhaka claim their business has recovered 70-75% compared to the pre-coronavirus period. There was a time when their business plunged to 30-35% because of the virus outbreak.
Three leading food delivery companies say their orders have increased 60-70%, which had come down to 15-20% during the general holidays.
In late March, the government imposed general holidays to check the spread of coronavirus. The shutdown, which lasted for 66 days, was extended several times before finally being withdrawn on May 31.
Nusrat, who lives at Kalabagan, describes herself as a fast food freak. She used to go to restaurants with family members and friends frequently before the pandemic began.
"Now I do not go out that often. I order food online when I want to eat restaurant meals," she said.
Many of those who used to eat out a lot echoed Nusrat.
Domino's Pizza Marketing Manager Yasir Taber Abedin told The Business Standard that most of the customers are now ordering food on the internet instead of going to eateries physically.
The Dhanmondi outlet of Domino's Pizza used to sell food worth Tk3-3.5 lakh a day in the pre-Covid-19 period. The figure plummeted to below Tk1.5 lakh but sales picked up again in August.
Yasir said sales at all four Domino's outlets had recuperated to the pre-pandemic levels.
Momen Uddin Ahmed, KFC operation lines manager, said the pandemic caused their sales to fall to 40%.
"But sales have now grown to 70-75%," he added.
Khandaker Ruhul Amin, president of Bangladesh Restaurant Owners' Association, says business has bounced back but many still avoid going to restaurants as they are scared of the virus.
He thinks the fall in people's income caused by the pandemic has led to a crisis in the restaurant sector.
The middle class is spending cautiously as earnings dropped, said Ruhul.
"Previously, those who used to go to food stores twice a month now eat out only once. Some are eating in restaurants once every two months," he explained.
Ruhul thinks it will take long before sales recover fully.
Eatery owners have said they are doing business in line with the health guidelines enforced after the pandemic began. It is mandatory for workers to use face masks, hand gloves and headshields.
Supplying protective equipment to workers has increased business expenditures but owners said they want to ensure safety for customers. Many eateries have also downsized their seating capacity.
Many fast food workers were laid off because of the pandemic. A segment of them did not get their jobs back while some permanently moved to their village homes.
Muhit Imtiaz, head of cafe at North End Coffee Roasters, said they had to let go 5% of their employees.
"The workload was then distributed among the rest so that everyone can survive," he added.