Good News for the Indian Restaurant Industry?
The F&B industry came to a shuddering halt in March 2020 in most countries as COVID-19 cases exploded. Restaurateurs had already started seeing a slowdown from February onward as consumers became aware of the pandemic and stayed at home. It's been five months now and counting at the time of writing as the world sees COVID cases growing by hundreds of thousands daily.
Government lockdowns, municipal guidelines, unrelenting licence fees, rents, and a very cautious consumer base has prevented restaurants, nightclubs, bars, and pubs to get back to business as millions of employees' livelihoods are affected across the gold. And, a possible proven COVID vaccine is far away and experts say that herd immunity is still far away.
So, the situation looks pretty grim for the F&B industry and the end of woes doesn't seem anywhere near.
Or does it?
Thyrocare seropositivity rate study
The Thyrocare study of antibody tests on a sample size of 200,000 showed up very interesting results. One out of four showed antibodies which means that 24% of the population has been exposed to the virus and have developed antibodies which are defence mechanisms that the body's immune system produces to ward off infections. Mumbai shows a 27% exposure to the virus and 29% of Delhi has been exposed to the virus.
This probably explains why the number of new cases has dropped to single-digit numbers in Dharavi where the positivity rates show 57%.
is there good news for Indian restaurant Owners?
Managing director Arokiaswamy Velumani of Thyrocare explains "Our results show India's 24% positivity is getting closer to 35% when plateauing of cases is known to happen". He adds that 45%, the curve starts taking a downward slope and the virus becomes less impactful after 50% seropositivity. (source - Times of India).
Similarly, The Print published an article titled "Why COVID-19 herd immunity is closer than we believed so far" is promising. These and other developments hold out hope that the end of the crisis to the industry is perhaps nearer than we thought it was. With a rapid decline in new cases, regulations will be relaxed and consumers will start eating out again.
Also, the Indian vaccine, Covaxin holds out the promise and the Oxford vaccine by Astra Zeneca is likely to be available by December this year.
However, at the same time, scientists, doctors, and other experts are saying that herd immunity is still far away.
COVISHIELD by Serum Institute launch by mid-november 2020
According to the plans by Government's plan, India's first COVID-19 vaccine by Serum Institute will be commercialized by mid-November 2020 and Indians will be immunized free of cost under the National Immunisation Program (NIP). The Indian government plans on immunizing 680 million Indians by June 2021. This could be one of the biggest news against defeating the CoronaVirus.
Delhi allows serving of liquor at restaurants and hotels
There was further good news for the hospitality industry in India that the Delhi government's announcement to allow the sale of liquor in restaurants and hotels on August 20, 2020. This is great news for the Indian F&B industry as other states are likely to ease liquor restrictions at restaurants, bars, and microbreweries.
What is the short term roadmap
Even if the pandemic wanes in India, it will not be overnight. It will take time for consumers and patrons to gain confidence and go back to pre-COVID days. Footfalls will be a trickle at first and will gradually pick up. It's important for restaurant owners to reduce operational expenses, increase market share, reengage with customers and vendors to create a new ecosystem which is geared to be successful and adapt to the "new normal"