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Industry welcomes MHA guidelines, says needs to be worked upon with time

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The beleaguered hospitality industry which has been reeling under the pressure of massive job losses and severe cash flow crunch, is deemed to be slowly seeing light on the other end of the tunnel, as MHA recently noded in favour of Malls, restaurants and hotels, allowing them to recommence operations in the non-containment regions, starting June 8, as part of the ‘Unlock 1.0’.

In a bid to contain the spread of the highly contagious Covid-19, MHA on Thursday issued certain guidelines for the establishments to ensure high degree of safety of one and all. Some of the guidelines include – Detailed guidelines issued for restaurants shall be followed; Seating arrangements in the restaurant also to be made in such a way that adequate social distancing is maintained; Disposable menus are advised to be used; Instead of cloth napkins, use of good quality disposable paper napkins to be encouraged; Hand sanitisers to be kept at the reception for guests to use; Guests to sanitise hands before and after filling relevant forms including A&D register; Hotels must adopt contactless processes like QR code, online forms, digital payments like e-wallet etc. for both check-in and check-out; Luggage should be disinfected before sending the luggage to rooms; Guests who are at higher risk i.e. those who are older, pregnant or those who have underlying medical conditions are advised to take extra precautions; Guests should be advised not to visit areas falling with in containment zone; Required precautions while handling supplies, inventories and goods in the hotel shall be ensured; Proper queue management and disinfection shall be organised; Appropriate personal protection gears like face covers/masks, gloves and hand sanitisers etc.shall be made available by the hotel to the staff as well as the guests, etc, among others.

While industry professionals lauded the decision issued by the Centre to allow hospitality services to recommence operations following the 2-month long stringent nationwide lockdown, they also feel that, with time, the guidelines need to be worked upon to further ease the normal functioning of the industry.

Welcoming the decision, Anurag Katriar, president, NRAI, said that these are basic guidelines issued by the Center and he is sure that various state governments will work towards further improving these guidelines. “NRAI is happy to work with various state governments in further strengthening these guidelines. We want to help create a synergy between safety norms and their practical on-ground implementation. While most critical areas are covered in the guidelines, we feel areas such as people do distancing, limitation of covers and hygiene norms in hot kitchen will need some more work before implementation,” he pointed.

“Hotels and restaurants are and have been ready to serve customers for quite some time. This move by the MHA is welcome and we are well prepared. Before we open our doors for business, the Government needs to ensure that those employees who have migrated are able to get back to work. So trains, buses, roadways need to be opened up so that staff can resume duty. Regarding readiness, our members are fully equipped and trained in ensuring the safety of customers as well as staff. FHRAI members have been kept informed and updated about best practices in addition to the MHA guidelines for ensuring guest safety and most of these best practices have now been adopted in the MHA guidelines. Some of these guidelines need to be amended, about which we have already briefed the authorities. Besides, FHRAI has been holding training FoSTaC progammes and have trained more than 2000 people for readiness. The new norms require greater levels of hygiene and comfort to the consumer and for this the industry is making concerted all efforts. Having said that, the Government will also have to play a pivotal role in bringing back consumer confidence and in reassuring them. Safety is paramount for all of us and given that we ourselves are present in the premises along with our staff, should be a testament to our commitment to guests’ safety,” noted Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, VP, FHRAI & president, HRAWI.

As Chai Point gears up to open its stores from Monday, it said that it read the customers’ sentiment to be slightly cautious. While the government has allowed opening of stores from June 8, customers won’t immediately start flocking to the cafes and restaurants. But gradually the walk-ins will see an increase, Chai Point’s CEO & co-founder Amuleek Singh Bijral expressed. “At Chai Point, we are focussed heavily on the safety of our employees and our customers. With this in mind, we have redesigned the stores for ‘Safe and Quick’ service enabled by various tech interventions like contactless dining and SOP changes. Currently, we are operating 50 stores out of 175. As the economy slowly begins to open up, we expect to re-open 5-7 stores every week. Our focus will be to continue to scale up our delivery channel which is already seeing considerable traction and provide a safe and quick service for the walk-ins,” he added.

Satyen Jain, CEO, Pride Group of Hotels also welcomed the government’s decision and said that they are looking forward to resuming operations within government guidelines. “The hospitality sector has been hugely affected by the coronavirus pandemic and the need for a safe environment will be of utmost priority across the industry. We are glad to welcome our guests and employees back with a stronger commitment to their safety and health. We’ve launched the Pride Safety Assurance initiative. These are enhanced Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that all our hotels will follow to ensure and create a further safe & hygienic environment for guests. Right from contactless payments and mandatory mobile check-in and check-outs, we are working to ensure social distancing measures are followed seamlessly. We look forward to delivering a safe, secure, and comfortable experience for our guests,” he explained.

Assuring the guests about safety, Rahul Puri, multi-property GM, The Westin Gurgaon, New Delhi and The Westin Sohna Resort And Spa, said, “We stand committed to reinventing our services in line with the new normal and adhering to the guidelines issued by the government for the hospitality industry, while seeking ways to deliver enhanced guest experiences, safety and value. The safety and well-being of our associates and guests remains our top priority. We have always placed emphasis on standards for hygiene and cleanliness, we will continue to strive for higher standards with enhanced protocols. These include multi-faceted procedures both at the hotel and the resort, designed to address each aspect of the guest journey- right from pre-arrival to a safe dining experience to the check-out, as well as back of the house operations, with the aim of supporting guests’ well-being throughout their stay. As we move from being aesthetically clean to clinically clean, we look forward to welcoming our guests back.”

Vikram Kamat, founder chairman, VITS Kamat Group said, “It is a welcome move that the government has released formal guidelines to follow. The guidelines themselves are fairly reasonable and can be followed. The few, contentious ones, I am sure will be sorted with feedback. For example, keeping masks on at all times in the restaurants, or six feet distance for all waiting customers and couple of others. But overall its welcome step and definitely in the right direction to get this high-employment sector restarted.”

Sarbendra Sarkar, founder and MD, Cygnett Hotel & Resorts, said that it’s a relief statement the industry has been waiting to hear. “We are in full force to resume operations across our multiple locations & the reopenings will begin in phase manners. Safety and well being has been the top priority for us and even more so today. Cygnett is strictly adhering and following health and safety protocols as per the direction of WHO and Local + central health care agencies,” added Sarkar.

“We at Roseate Hotels & Resorts would be adhering to these guidelines and have put in additional measures in our SOPs besides undertaking extensive sanitisation of our hotels. We are also waiting to hear when hotels will be allowed to operate in Delhi/NCR,” said Ankur Bhatia, executive director, Bird Group which owns and operates Roseate Hotels and Resorts.

Noshir A Marfatia; senior VP – sales & marketing, The Fern Hotels & Resorts, said “We are glad that under Unlock 1.0, MHA has finally given the general go-ahead for hotels to reopen. But with the final decision of reopening still lying with the States, there is quite a bit of confusion prevalent on exactly when hotels in different States can reopen. For hotels that have reopened this week, some states have placed restrictions on travellers from certain other States coming in, which further muddles the waters. One hopes clarity will soon prevail. Our strong demands for Industry status, relief for expenses and losses incurred during these 2 months of lockdown, etc still remain unanswered. For an industry that provides employment to lakhs of Indians and contributes significantly to India’s GDP, it is a sad state of affairs when the government ignores these legitimate demands. Still, one only hopes.”

Ashwin Jain, founder, Instapizza expressed, “We welcome the government guidelines and we as a team plan to continue our extreme focus on transparency in hygiene and sanitisation. It is incumbent on food brands to communicate the entire breadth of every step they are taking to ensure safety in the food delivery chain. At Instapizza, we have launched CrustFlix – a feature that allows any current or prospective customer to watch a live stream of any of our kitchens to see how we maintain strict sanitisation and hygiene levels in our kitchens. Our kitchens are sanitised every two hours, anyone can log in online and know we back up our words with the appropriate action.”

“Restaurants will surely be happy to adhere to the guidelines issued. However, guidelines will put a lot of restrictions on the business and majority of the business will still come from food delivery for next few months. For restaurant owners to sustain, with these strict guidelines, we will all have to look at delivering direct to customers to earn better margins,” noted Pawan Shahri, founder, BroEat.

“In this situation, businesses need to strategise for a future that cannot be predicted. Businesses that had the good fortune of deep pockets will definitely flourish. Practices that made businesses thrive in the past will remain relevant while some new practices will need to be learned. Restaurants that survived this time of lockdown with the ability to retain employees while protecting their human capital and investment will be in a better situation. They shall reopen to the customers’ gratitude and the thrill of their patrons re-discovering their comfort foods and favorite cocktails. Reuniting with tastes that will make them forget everything, at least for a few brief moments. And this momentary crisis and the meltdowns it brought about, will be soon forgotten and we might go back to business as usual,” expressed Chef Suvir Saran, chef and owner, THC – The House of Celeste.

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