Instead of being preoccupied with food orders from tables, most restaurants in Dhaka had closed establishments amid this pandemic to abide by the government's obligation -- keeping human contact at a minimum. There are more than 7,000 restaurants and food outlets in Dhaka and among them, 95 percent have been closed due to the virus outbreak, according to the Bangladesh Restaurant Owners Association.
This New Normal has left the Bangladesh restaurant industry in dire straits - many outlets are being forced to survive bleak possibilities of Covid-19. Trying to avoid an economic recession, the Bangladesh government has been slowly easing up restrictions on the lockdown.
The Business Standard reached out to some of Dhaka's restauranteurs and here's what they had to say:
"The business is down by 50%-60%"
Founding Partner at Madchef
Closing dine-in because of the pandemic, has been the biggest challenge so far. Although, delivery sales have increased - it is nothing compared to the demand in other countries because people in Bangladesh do not have the habit of ordering food from home. The business is down by 50%-60%. We have been providing accommodations for our staff so that they do not have to risk their lives by going back and forth. We are also providing our working staff with all the necessary things like food and medications and this has ultimately increased our expenses. Currently, we are in talks with the landlord on how we can help each other out - trying to negotiate in bringing down the rent by 50 percent. We still have not laid off any employees yet but 20 percent of our staff went back to their villages. We had advised all our staff to stay in Dhaka - because getting in crowded transportations to go back home can result in someone getting infected.
"I am thinking of closing down Melt Town"
Owner of Melt Town
I have decided to keep my restaurant closed because I have to think about the health risks of my staff and customers. Furthermore, the revenue will not even cover the maintenance costs to run the business. The landlords are not willing to consider the rent for the shop. I am trying my best to support my staff during such times. Maybe my position is different from other owners but I am thinking of closing down Melt Town - people are not too keen on going out or eating out at this point.
"Everything has gone haywire"
Sugarpuffs Cafe and Bakery
During this pandemic, everything has gone haywire so we decided to shut down our operations for the first two months. Rent has definitely been an issue for all businesses because we are not earning anything. Before the lockdown began, we were not providing accommodation for our employees, so, those who could stay back and work stayed while others left for their hometowns. Now we are working with a limited number of employees as the ones who left are not being able to come back. We have been able to pay full salaries to our working employees. We have not laid off any of our employees yet, those who have left for their hometowns are now getting a certain percentage of the salary starting May.
Since we are not being able to import our supplies, we have to go for limited operations and are selling selected items only. Considering the situation we are doing okay - we started our dine-in first of this month; we are open for dine-in from 12 pm-5 pm and delivery is open till 8 pm and we are taking all the safety measures for both employees and customers - but we are nowhere near a normal scenario.