The F&B industry is one of the ones that have been hit the worst due to the ongoing pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. Zorawar Kalra, MD & founder, Massive Restaurants, in conversation with Akshay Nayak, elucidates the company’s strategies in the post-COVID world
As the restaurant sector in the country was already reeling with many obstacles prior to COVID-19 outbreak, the novel crisis has lashed out severely at the food services sector, wherein, despite them knocking the doors of the Centre and state governments for a rescue plan, scores of eateries remain shuttered, with no signs or clear directives to help them see light on the other end of the tunnel.
“The current pandemic is one of the biggest shocks to the entire human race. It will have a snowball effect in the months to come. The F&B industry is one of the ones that has been hit the worst. Restaurants are not operational, the staff in our industry does not have the option to work from home. It is impacting everyone in the industry in a big way,” expresses Zorawar Kalra, MD & founder, Massive Restaurants.
The sector is facing a severe cash-flow problem. To ensure efficient capital management and keeping the business afloat during this unprecedented crisis, Kalra informed, “We will be taking a series of multifold measures over the next twelve to eighteen months to deal with the effects of this crisis of unprecedented proportions. We will be looking at complete cash conservation, all new restaurant launches will have to be put on hold for some time. Every single line item in the P&L will be looked into to see where costs can be controlled. A lot of costs that are not related to the guests experience will be revisited. Most costs will go down except for our food cost which will probably go up because we are going to invest even more to ensure that food safety and hygiene standards are world-class including going right to the source of procurement of materials. Packaging will be far better and superior. There will be no compromise on the food preparation and delivery aspects.”
Amid the crisis, keeping the employees motivated being a key factor, Kalra noted that in this time, it is very important to engage with all stakeholders be it the colleagues or the shareholders. “Everybody understands that these are unprecedented times and what is most important is that the company survives this onslaught and comes out even stronger, hence the constant engagement with everyone is the best motivator at this time,” he said.
Chalking out a dynamic plan for Massive Restaurants post the COVID-19, Kalra highlights that they have a very aggressive and dynamic plan to ensure the safety of both the patrons and employees. “There will be extensive screening of all employees and guests within the restaurants. We will be maintaining all social distancing norms very aggressively not only with the front of house team but in the kitchen as well. There will be fewer chefs working in the kitchen, this might make us compress the menu slightly but that is the need of the hour as safety is most important at this time. There will be deep cleaning happening daily, we are also contemplating putting up live cameras in our restaurants, footage from which will be streaming on the internet so anyone across the globe can log on to our website to see how we are operating. Sanitisation will be give utmost importance using high tech instruments for surface cleaning and ultraviolet enabled technology to ensure cleanliness especially during table turnovers. Staff training and awareness has already begun over webinars and will continue on a daily basis. Our food and safety department along with our learning and development team has always been one of the most crucial departments and we have always had ongoing training for our teams. This will further be augmented with more training and awareness. We will ensure that all government guidelines are followed diligently. The safety of our patrons is our priority and we will ensure every measure is taken to make all guests feel safe and have a good experience,” Kalra added.
Speaking about the future roadmap and expansion plans of Massive Restaurants, Kalra said, “At this point, our prime focus is the next twelve months of operations. We are not looking at anything beyond the safety of our patrons and employees. The post-COVID-19 world will be a different ball game altogether. There will be a new normal. Numbers are going to take a while to stabilise until the vaccine is out. This is the time to look at consolidation and not look at expansion. The need of the hour is to look at your current restaurants that will open once the lockdown ends and in ensuring high levels of safety and sanitation at each of them. As a company, we are going to look at adaptation, for example, delivery that has traditionally been less than 10 per cent of our revenue will now play a larger role. We are also looking at opening cloud kitchens. Having said the same expansion would be very cautious and limited. Our main goal is to stabilise and see how the scenario looks post the lockdown.”