The coronavirus pandemic has forced restaurants and other eateries to remain closed for prolonged periods across the world, as has been the case in Bangladesh as well. Alongside airlines and retail, restaurants and hotels are among the most severely impacted industries globally.
Although the restaurants in upmarket areas of the capital stopped their operations when the countrywide lockdown first began, the permission to reopen for Holy Ramadan issued by Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) has brought back the familiar scenes of streets proliferating with outdoor stalls selling iftar items.
Eating out in restaurants with family and friends had gradually grown into the principal mode of entertainment for urbane Dhaka residents - that only became more pronounced during the holy month of Ramadan in recent years. Although the eateries lost their usually lucrative lunch-time revenue, the greater propensity to dine-out for their iftar and even sehri meals - or take delivery - more than made up for that.
When Bangladesh was forced to resort to social distancing from the last week of March, culminating in the eventual lockdown conditions, to deal with the local outbreak of the pandemic, they all had to close of course, alongside the rest of the economy.
On April 28, DMP loosened the restriction on restaurants, announcing them as part of a group of businesses, alongside super-shops, local shops and grocery markets, for which trading hours were revised. The added caveat is that they are only to offer delivery and take-away services at this stage, strictly no dining facilities.
This was still better than nothing, and at least allowed some of the eateries to rake in a fraction of the lucrative Ramadan earnings they are used to. It also created opportunities for the ecosystem around the sector to revive itself, for example bringing food delivery companies and their army of delivery personnel to start working again.
Among the restaurants that have been easing themselves back into business through the takeaway/delivery service are those that are part of the boutique or international hotels that have sprung up in the posh end of Gulshan and Banani, or either side of the Airport Road.
“We prefer you to stay home in safety at this crucial moment, thus our dedicated team is working continuously to provide you Ramadan delicacies which you can choose from the Buy 1-Get 1 offers or the A la carte menu, with our five-star service brought to your doorstep,” Sabrina Mridha, Senior Manager of Marketing & Communications at Amari Dhaka told UNB about their 2020 iftar offerings.
Additionally, the upmarket restaurants and chains are trying to ensure the utmost level of safety by avoiding any scope for spreading the virus through these deliveries. Most of them are offering contactless delivery system for anyone wishing to avoid hand-to-hand contact with delivery personnel while receiving their ordered items.
‘Cash on delivery’ remains the most popular option for the customers, while some of the outlets are also offering the option to pay by card.
All that being said, it is worth noting that the popular eateries are trying to make the best of what is a difficult situation and trying to maintain the precious bond with their patrons through this crucial period by utilising the available options as best they can. No matter what though, all of them are trying to hold on with the hope that by the time of next year’s Ramadan, none of these adaptations would be necessary anymore and they can get back to their business thriving during the holy month.