As streets are slowly picking up the familiar footfall faded by consecutive curbs in the valley, Kashmir’s new-age cafes are trying to regain their pulse through a robust system of deliveries, utmost hygiene and clientele support. This revival strategy has paved path for some interesting sectors to blossom for the first time in the valley. Prime among them is the Delivery Industry that has started to pick the pace and drive the hospitality sector towards a more sustainable system of serving delicious meals and exhilarating experiences. These new-age self-starters have been following a popular pattern to create a different niche for themselves in the valley’s hospitality sector. While the Cafés are trying hard to find logistic solutions to breathe new life into their business, few young entrepreneurs have taken this challenge upon themselves to create a supply chain directive for the people of Kashmir.
Some of these young people have shunned their lucrative jobs and careers all around the world to start their own ventures at a place where the private sector is still struggling to shape up. Despite facing situational hitches in the valley, these young lots have become instrumental in transforming the dull social hangout spots in Kashmir with their theme-based cafes in recent past. Now that these Social Hotspots have become deserted, more people with enterprising zeal have come up with solutions to fill the void in the F & B Industry. This initiative has evolved into a lifeline for the struggling Cafés who are trying hard to get business. Many theme-based cafes and eateries run by young people are today looking forward to resuming their ventures as they are getting instrumental support from the newly emerged logistics industry. “Khyen Chyen” talked to some of the best cafes in Srinagar with a wide fan following and ever building repute about the toll Covid-19 took on their business. We also tried to explore their future plans of overcoming this situational crisis.
Well, the impact is the same all over the world and we are no different. It’s actually exciting to think about new ways of doing business. In my view, takeaways and home-delivery will surely pick up so we are shortly coming up with one of its kind takeaway unit (Rajbagh) designed for quick delivery and easy packaging to ensure the best experience. Additionally, we are starting home deliveries from both units. We are giving our best as always to ensure our customer’s safety and eating experience. – “Khawar Jamsheed”
Books and Bricks
After the near doomsday experience last August, and collapsing of our worlds in the following months, each of us was hoping and secretly praying for a vibrant, hustling and bustling, busy summer this year. It was our chance at putting on our ventilators and gently forcing normalcy into our rustic cafe. Now that feels like a distant dream. Apart from immediately being introduced to a restaurant survival package, we also need a strategy for business in the post lockdown COVID scene (say June to April 2021), only to keep a huge supply chain afloat and subsequent livelihoods thriving. We are going to rely on our telephone lines and social media and hope that they are not shut time and again. In order to ensure we have total control over hygiene and safety protocols, we have gotten staff on board for home delivery and we would be undertaking it ourselves making sure the BnB experience reaches the homes of people. Another option could be people driving up to the cafe, waiting in their cars, placing an order and then picking it up from a table outside the cafe, where it stays packed with a name tag on it. – “Anam Khan”
I think, from now onwards, innovation is the key to survival. Social media is a powerful tool and needs to be used properly. Quality of food will matter the most now. Packaging and presentation will give you an edge over the competition. With a market dominated by certain delivery chains, it’s imperative that your food be different than the rest. “Kamran Nisar”
Ten out of our seventeen outlets are based in the valley and we were trying to get back in business in February after more than 6 months of the shutdown, when, all of a sudden, we were hit by this global crisis. We had to shut down again, but this time it was different and we had no clue what awaited us in the days to come. I have close to 200 employees and in this pandemic, I paid their salaries from our savings and also paid salaries to the franchise employees because things were different this time. It was time for me to extend my support to those who invested time, money and faith in me and my project, also keeping in mind that most of the franchise owners are young first-generation businessmen, fresh graduates with limited resources. Parsa’s is a place beyond food, it’s more like an experience. Unless and until it is safe to dine-in and things get close to normal, I’m not expecting a miracle out of the current situation. I cannot rely on home deliveries but to sustain and survive we have to resort to the only option left with us. My delivery boys are fully equipped with all the protective gear and to double-check I call / text every day randomly to know if they’re satisfied with the delivering procedure and quality. – “Javid Parsa”
At CJ we take it as given that the situation of a lockdown will continue for quite some time. As such any business, big or small will have to adapt to this situation. At least for now. The real issue we are facing is how to reconcile the about “Lives versus Livelihood” dilemma. It can’t be either this or that. Both are important. But we would like to err on the side of safety. At CJ our effort is to combine the safety of our people and the security of our employees. We need to calibrate operations so that we are able to find a sustainable via media. So, here is what we are in the process of doing:
- Quarantining of employees at the premises.
- Testing of employees for Covid19.
- Sanitising of the premises.
- Protective gear for the staff.
- All groceries and other raw material used only after following the globally laid out protocol.
- Starting takeaway to ensure contactless delivery.
- CJ bakery products available in convenience stores.
- Following all relevant SOPs. – “Roohi Nazki”
I don’t consider it [lockdown] a toll on our business. It literally brought us on our knees. We had to stop all our operations and all our stock was wasted. Most importantly, we had to let go our precious human resource, on which you spent so much time and money in training and grooming. The plan ahead is to retain our lost staff and building confidence among ourselves first, that yet again we can emerge out of this and then building confidence in our customers that food from Fat Panda is completely safe. While we’re following SOPs and guidelines, we hope that at least 50 percent of dining is allowed as soon as possible, because surviving only on takeout and delivery is not possible. “Sameer”
We had already been suffering after the abrogation of Article 370. This [COVID] came as the second wave of disaster. We were honestly expecting a good season in 2020 but unfortunately, God had other plans. We suffered huge losses and we’re in fact mentally disturbed too. We saw new light as the lockdown was smoothened and found an opportunity in home delivering our food to people. We’ve got a great response till now, and are very positive for the future. “Adil Farooq Khan”
Zero Miles Café
Lockdown has put cafes in a lot of pressure. Since people are afraid to go out to dine, it has affected the business. It’s also affecting home delivery system since people don’t prefer to eat from outside as of now. But we need to restart, and for that, we need capital infusion. Situation is still critical. Many restaurants are shutting down because they can’t pay the rent and salaries. And therefore, we would be focusing on home delivery and takeaways in post-COVID era. Hygiene will be our priority. – “Jibran Khan”
Alif the Café
Our plan was to serve something unique—say, for example, Kashmiri food with Lebanese or Turkish twist—in the valley. But unfortunately, lockdown changed everything. As a travel agent with substantial experience in the tourism industry, I have observed that tourism and food are interconnected. Such combination works well in Thailand, Tashkent, Europe, Egypt and other countries. We tried to reopen our cafe in January 2020, but after one month COVID once again made it a shut shop. As Kashmiris we are used to these kinds of lockdowns and restrictions, but pandemic experience was really different, so it really changed our entire lifestyle. – “Ather Yameen”
The lockdown-induced gap has put the business on the brink of collapse as the footfall of our restaurant has depleted. But thanks to our staff, we’re back in action. With proper SOPs in place, we hope to regain our normal customer footfall soon. “Amir Farooq Khan”
It is always a struggle to get back to business as we’ve been facing these shutdowns since many years. Ahdoos has been standing tall as a legendary icon and people feel a bond with us as their sentiments are attached to the place. We need to be diligent more than ever in preparing our meals now. Great attention will be paid to minute details from sourcing, handling, packaging to delivering the food. – “Hayat Bhat”
We’ve a professional team of chefs and bakers hired from various parts of the country. Sending them home safely was our first concern. And as the restrictions were slowly relaxed, we reopened the sweets and bakery portion while restaurant still remains closed. As we’re committed to the hygiene and wellbeing of our customers and service staff, we’ve limited our operations keeping their safety in mind. With our professional team and visionary management, we will be back to business as usual as the situation gets better. “Bilal Dar”
Our conversation with the Café Owners presented a mix of hopeful and grim scenarios. While they have been worried about Dine-In in near future, they are optimistic too in the form of take-away and recently started deliveries. Most of them are anticipating the resumption of business with delivery partners which would also help in the development of the latter as an emerging and ground defining industry. The logistic companies are still in infancy, but they are evolving at a tremendous rate each passing day. We are also positive about this new change that the lockdown has triggered. Hopefully, for the best of the valley.
– Namisha Raj, Editor, “Khyen Chyen”
SOURCE: Namisha Raj, Editor, "Khyen Chyen"