Restaurants face the heat in summer of '24, business drops by up to 40 per cent

For non-mall restaurant business in Delhi-NCR, the summer of 2024 has been one of few reservations, drop in footfalls and near empty lunch hours with an estimated 25 per cent drop in business.
Last Updated : 12 June 2024, 12:29 IST

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New Delhi: When the sun beats down, temperatures cross 40 degrees Celsius and a scorching summer seems even more unforgiving, stepping out for lunch is just not a thing to do. And when the hot winds continue till night, dinner is not the best option either.

For non-mall restaurant business in Delhi-NCR, the summer of 2024 has been one of few reservations, drop in footfalls and near empty lunch hours with an estimated 25 per cent drop in business. And some eateries say the number could be closer to 40 per cent.

Staring at empty tables and staggering losses, Rahul Arora, the owner of The Big Tree Cafe in Gurgaon, is one of them. The USP of his restaurant as the name suggests is al-fresco dining experience. It thrives on that for a good part of the year.

"Typically, we do see a slight reduction in footfalls during the hotter months, but this year, the decline has been more pronounced due to the extreme temperatures. This has had a substantial impact on our business, affecting both our revenue and the overall dining experience that we pride ourselves on," Arora told PTI.

"We have suffered a huge 40 per cent drop in business due to the record breaking sweltering heat," he said.

Temperatures in and around Delhi have hit all time highs this summer.

On May 29, the day's maximum temperature of 46.8 degrees Celsius, recorded at the primary weather station Safdarjung Observatory, was a 79-year high. It broke the previous record of 46.7 degrees Celsius, registered on June 17, 1945. In Najafgarh area, temperatures soared even higher.

According to industry insiders, lunch hours are the worst hit with usual office goers and trusted shoppers preferring to stay indoors. Besides, true-blue foodies are also ditching their weekly dine-outs and preferring to stay in.

The visible drop in footfalls in big market hubs such as Connaught Place are a problem, said Manpreet Singh, treasurer of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) and owner of multiple restaurants, including Zen and Fujiya.

"Usually, even in summer, people during the afternoon would come out to shop and then to take a break they would head to a restaurant, where they would rest, have a cooler or take a bite. This has not been the case this year... There has been a 25 per cent drop in business in general,” Singh told PTI.

Hoping to temper the heat effect, restaurants are throwing in attractive discounts, recalibrating menus and enhancing outdoor cooling systems with mist fans and additional shaded areas.

For instance, casual dining chain Anardana is offering a refreshing plant-based summer soiree, featuring delicacies made of seasonal ingredients and cool mango beverages at its multiple outlets to beat the heat.

"This year's unprecedented heatwave has significantly impacted footfall, particularly at lunchtime...,” said Shruti Malik, founder of Anardana.

For those staying in, ordering out is the option. And while home deliveries have assuaged to some extent the concerns of restaurant managements, food delivery agents are facing the heat.

As they zip through the streets of Delhi-NCR, the young men – and some women – say they face a torrid time, sweating under their helmets in the blistering heat for a modest income – earning as low as Rs 40 for a 10 km ride – and the occasional tip.

A 36-year-old who makes his living delivering food says doing so between 11 am to 3 pm a "living nightmare".

"We have to stop multiple times for shade. We can't even see our mobile screen for maps because the sun is so bright. A wet handkerchief on my head, beneath my helmet is all that I do to keep myself cool during the rides," he said on the condition of anonymity.

Of course, he added, there are no bonuses for the summer.

In an unusual request, food aggregator Zomato recently urged customers to avoid ordering during peak afternoon hours amid the heatwave.

The appeal, which was sent out as an X post, sparked a debate, where some appreciated the company's concern while others offered alternative solutions to the problem.

Rushabh Jhaveri, founder of Recipe Cup, also a food aggregator platform, commended Zomato's initiative but said a more nuanced approach, one where the company prioritises delivery partners while ensuring a smooth customer experience, would be more beneficial.

His suggestions include "incentives for delivery partners during peak afternoon hours and encouraging customers to place pre orders during morning and evening hours to avoid extreme afternoon heat".

It’s not all bad for the food business if located in the cool refuge of air-conditioned malls. The negative impact of drop in footfalls in the afternoons has been mitigated by the rise in evening footfalls, said insiders.

So, Birch at Netaji Subhash Place's Pacific Mall, Harajuku Tokyo Cafe at Saket's Select Citywalk Mall or Bira 91 Taproom, which has outlets in different malls, are among the outlets which have registered a "significant increase" in evening and nightlife sales.

"The heatwave has not disrupted our business. On the contrary, we have witnessed the best May ever. And we are looking at a stellar June. Most of our outlets are in malls, and people are spending a lot of time in malls to take respite from the heat. This is helping our business," said Rahul Singh, senior vice president, pubs, at Bira 91.

Published 12 June 2024, 12:29 IST

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