The restaurant sector, which has been hit hard by the ongoing pandemic, is expected to be able to turn around because of the decision
Restaurant owners welcomed the decision taken on Sunday to resume dine-in services, although they have to operate at 50% capacity at best, as part of the health directives to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The restaurant sector, which has been hit hard by the ongoing pandemic, is expected to be able to turn around because of the decision.
However, they also demanded incentives and soft loans from the SME Foundation to revive and make up for the losses.
The government issued a notification on Sunday stating all kinds of public transport, including long-haul services, can operate carrying passengers at half the capacity by maintaining health directives but the government has again extended the ongoing restrictions on public movement and gathering till May 30 midnight in a bid to stop further spread of Covid-19.
Restaurants and eateries, which until now could operate for takeaway and delivery services, have also been allowed to offer dine-in facilities at half the capacity, said the notification.
In an immediate reaction to this, Imran Hassan, general secretary of Bangladesh Restaurant Owners Association (BROA), said that they are happy with the notification and expressed gratitude to the prime minister.
“We are happy with the decision of the government. The restaurant sector of Bangladesh is a potential and booming industry. If we get some benefits then it is possible to build this sector to international standards and so is our purpose.”
“A single organization should monitor our industry, rather than multiple state agencies. The government should create this in coordination with safe food authority, consumer rights authority, and the NBR. Then our development will surely accelerate,” he added.
Syed Mohammad Andalaib, organizing secretary of BROA, said that they welcomed this decision.
They (restaurant owners) needed such a decision from the government to turn around the sector. Even if the restaurant is open with half the seats vacant, they can at least continue trying to revive the sector, he also said.
“We have already informed our members to take initiative to open the restaurants in compliance with all types of hygiene directives strictly. We will also monitor, if anyone violates the government decision, we will take legal action immediately against them,” he added.
Moreover, Andalib demanded long-term loans with easy terms and low-interest rates from the SME Foundation to revive their businesses after incurring massive losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic and incentives for their staff.
Asking about immediate reaction, Ashfaq Rahman Asif, restaurateur, and owner of Tarka Restaurant, said that it is a good decision in the midst of many bad things. It will help the sector to revive but they have more to look forward to in the long run.
Most of the restaurants in Bangladesh operate out of rented spaces. Many restaurants have several months of rent overdue. So, a government representative should discuss with landlords regarding the suspension of rent or an extension on the time given to pay the rent and owners be allowed to pay electricity, gas, and water bills without surcharges and asked for more time to pay due bills, he added.
According to BROA, there are currently about 60,000 restaurants across the country, with more than 8,000 in the capital alone.
Close to 2.8 million people depend on the restaurant industry for their livelihoods, while the number is several times higher if it includes the supportive sectors.
Trouble began after the outbreak of Covid-19 last year when several restaurants began letting go of staff, while many sold off their businesses. Some were unable to survive and closed shop entirely.
Nearly 25-30% of the restaurants closed permanently after the first wave of Covid-19, and 50% of ownerships were transferred as their original owners could not survive, said the BROA.