Bikrampur Hotel and Restaurant in Moghbazar used to sell 70-80 mughlai parathas every day, but after increasing the price of the item from Tk60 to Tk80 a few days ago, its daily sales have currently dropped to less than 50.
Sales of other food items at this restaurant – and many others across the city – have recently dropped after prices were increased to cope with the hike in prices of products essential for preparing food. Some small and medium-sized restaurants have started laying off their employees due to declining income.
According to the traders, many people have already reduced spending on things which are not necessary – like delicacies offered by the restaurants – to keep up with the recent price hike. When the restaurants raised the prices of their food items, many stopped eating out altogether.
Restaurateurs have been trying out different means to keep up their sales and profits the same as before, but so far their efforts have not succeeded.
Sujan Ghosh, manager of Bikrampur Hotel and Restaurant, said, "We reduced the size of puri to keep its price the same as before – Tk5, but still people are eating less. Previously a person usually ate 4-5 pieces of puri, but currently many eat only two pieces for Tk10 and leave."
Mohammad Hasnat, manager of a Ghoroa Hotel and Restaurant outlet in Moghbazar, said, "We have lost 25% of our customers after hiking the prices of khichuri from Tk200 to Tk220, and kachchi from Tk190 to Tk200."
Mohammad Irfan, owner of Bhai Bhai Biryani House in Moghbazar, said, "After the price of oil, flour, pulses and eggs increased, we stopped selling some food items, including halim, kebab and paratha. Now I sell only beef tehari, khichuri, chicken biryani. I have increased the prices of all the items by Tk10."
Irfan said he was forced to lay off some employees because his profits have fallen.
"I have kept three out of seven employees as our daily sales have decreased by half compared to our previous sales amounting to Tk15,000-20,000 per day," he said.
Sohag, manager of Cafe de Taj in the same area, said, "We are getting fewer customers after increasing the price of naan bread from Tk25 to Tk30. I am thinking of laying off some employees."
Mizanur Rahman, an employee at Niribili Food Care near Kalyanpur bus stand, said it usually saw a long queue of customers in front of its shop, as the prices of its food items, like phuchka, pizza and burgers, was low. But after it hiked prices, the number of customers dropped drastically.
The fast food shop increased the price of a burger from Tk60 to Tk70 and a plate of phuchka from Tk40 to Tk60.
Mizanur said, "Two months ago, I could buy phuchka at Tk100 per kg, but I have to pay Tk190 per kg. The prices of Dabli boot (white pea) doubled from Tk38 to Tk65 per kg, while tamarind jumped from Tk200 to Tk900 per kg. Do I have any option other than raising prices?"
Mohammad Habib, owner of Habib Hotel in Mirpur, said, "I did not increase the prices, but reduced the size of the paratha, shingara and puri. I make a profit by selling food to students of a nearby school which is currently open. If I increase the prices, the students might stop spending their tiffin money here."
"I can barely sustain my business in this way, but cannot make any profit," he added.
For more than a decade now, Abul Hossain has been selling delicacies like chicken rolls, potato chops, halim on vans in Boubazar area of Moghbazar. His food is very popular in the area, but whenever he charges more for his food, he loses customers. And so he has been selling his products at the same price as before, which has placed immense pressure on him.
His income has shrunk to the extent that currently he cannot pay the school fees of his two sons after paying the house rent and buying food for his family.
A number of officegoers told TBS that previously they did not take lunch from home to their workplaces, but of late they have been doing it and have stopped eating outside.
Meanwhile, many others now return home as soon as possible after office and eat dinner a little earlier than they usually did to save the cost of afternoon snacks.
Habibur Rahman, employee at a private company in Karwan Bazar, said, "To save the extra cost of snacks in the evening, I return home soon after office so that I can finish my dinner quickly. My income has not jumped in the same way that the prices of goods have increased by leaps and bounds. And so I am cutting costs a little."
Restaurant owners have been facing a crisis as the edible oil market has been volatile for months. The crisis deepened when edible oil price reached Tk200 after Indonesia banned exports of palm oil.
India's recent ban on wheat export has worsened the situation. Recently, the price of unpacked flour jumped from Tk34-36 to Tk46 per kg. The prices of rice, meat, eggs, and milk have gone up too.
According to the Bangladesh Restaurant Owners' Association, there are around four lakh restaurants across the country.