Many consumers could still forego eating at restaurants despite eases to the coronavirus lockdown, a British Asian business leader has said. Salim Chowdhury, the President of the British Bangladeshi Caterers Association, which represents British Bangladeshi-owned restaurants, takeaways and catering service providers, spoke to BritShish about how Covid-19 has affected Asian restaurants across the UK.
1.How has the lockdown impacted your members’ sales?
Needless to say, sales have gone down considering that the general public has taken great caution with regards to how they live their day to day life. Of course, dining at restaurants and going for take-outs were not essential.
2. Have many of your member restaurants been able to stay open and trade as takeaways during the lockdown?
Initially the vast majority had to close down and those who offered takeout services found that they were able to continue business. For many, they saw the need to adapt by introducing takeout services where they had not done before. The BBCA proactively informed our members on how to do so – we helped disseminate information according to government guidelines and also used the knowledge of fellow members to help one another remodel our businesses.
3. Did the government grants and loans provided provide sufficient support for your member businesses to survive? Do you expect more support from the government?
Both the grants and loans helped immensely, but we need and expect continued support from the government. The BBCA have raised this with many MPs through webinar meetings. I have also been lobbying the government for a VAT concession. I believe that this is crucial for the businesses for which this concession will mean the difference between survival and closure.
4. How could the new guidelines announced by the government affect your member businesses? Could a decrease in customers eating-in due to social distancing measures create problems for your members?
The reduction in social distancing from 2m to 1m+ is welcomed. Even so, many of my members and fellow caterers will be operating on a 40-50% capacity which will not be viable for many.
5. Do you expect some of your member businesses to close down?
Sadly yes, I do. It is inevitable. A recession of this magnitude cannot pass without any casualties.
6. Do you expect consumer eating habits to change radically (e.g. avoiding restaurants altogether)?
There will naturally be people who will remain sceptic and opt out of living life as they had done before. If not for this scepticism, there can still be a sizeable amount who will forego their usual restaurant visits out of fiscal concerns rather than ones out of health.
7. What advice would you give your members and restaurants for the future?
Shorten your menus to prioritise the most popular items. Remove also items that are costly in terms of time to prepare and profit margins. Embrace technology in both the front and back of house with modern equipment. This entails having your own EPOS system, creating your own database and serving your customers directly to cut out your delivery platforms.