Lockdown tales: Food for thought
Restaurants in Oman, which are only allowed to provide take-aways and home delivery parcels of food, are reeling under a dire situation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic wherein survival itself has become difficult for many. Ashok Laungani, a longtime restaurateur and proprietor of Golden Grill House, at Ruwi, says the lockdown has hit them hard and fears that they would have to close business if things continue unabated for sometime. Here's what he has to say:
We are here in this industry since 1993 but we have never ever come to such a situation as now – business has been reduced to just 10-15 per cent of our normal business and maintaining ourselves during this time is a big problem.
We have been cooperating with the authorities by following all their guidelines in the interest of the safety of our customers and our staff but there doesn'st seem to be any improvement in the overall situation which is forcing us to even consider closing downour business. It has become very difficult to run our business and maintain our staff, too.
We had opened a new outlet in Al Khoud in March but had no alternative but to keep it closed now. Many of our staff wish to take leave and go home but in the absence of flights they cannot do so and so we have to provide them with accommodation and food, besides paying the rent for our premises.
Our restaurant in Ruwi is in the commercial area and most of the ministries, and banks here are working with minimum staff, so business has really collapsed for us. Although we are maintaining proper hygiene and precautions, as laid down by the municipalities, customers are afraid to order food from outside for their own safety.
We are hoping for the best and praying to God that things get better for all of us in Oman soon. The biggest problem will be tryig to get customers back after the crisis. It will be very difficult since people will be worried and will have fears regarding visiting restaurants or ordering food. Once things are normal, getting back the confidence of customers will take another 6-8 months.
Touch wood, there have been no signs or symptoms among all our staff yet. We disinfect our premises as well as the delivery boxes used by our delivery boys on bikes on a regular basis. Our staff take all precautions, they wear masks, face shields and gloves when going to deliver food to ensure the safety of the customers as well as of themselves.
If things get worse, we might have to remain closed temporarily as I do not want my staff to get infected by going outside. Till then, we pray and hope that things will improve soon.