Installing protective screens, conducting temperature checks, contactless ordering, and visible cues to ensure physical distancing are among the various measures taken by restaurants in the national capital which reopened with 50 per cent capacity on Monday after nearly two months.
Dine-in facilities were barred in Delhi since April 17, when the first weekend lockdown was imposed in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19 infection in the city.
According to the latest guidelines of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), restaurants can open with 50 per cent capacity but they cannot serve liquor to their guests as bars in such establishments will remained closed till further orders.
"The measures in place include mandatory daily wellness and temperature checks for everyone (crew, customers and delivery partners), compulsory face masks, enhanced focus on hand hygiene with frequent hand washing and gloves for the crew," said Rajeev Ranjan, Chief Operating Officer, Connaught Plaza Restaurants Pvt Ltd, which operates McDonald's restaurants in north and east India.
"Front counters and drive through have been fitted with protective screens and ordering, payment and delivery has been made contactless to minimize human contact.
"All restaurants have visual cues on furniture and floor to help customers and employees maintain adequate physical distance and follow Covid-protocols. The customers will also notice foot-operated taps in the rest rooms," he added.
Restaurants in south Delhi's Lajpat Nagar and Moolchand areas, largely remained closed or opened shutters for just cleaning the premises on Monday.
In Lajpat Nagar's central market area, Afghan Darbar was among the restaurants which was inviting guests again to relish their exotic cuisine.
"We have reopened after relaxation of lockdown norms, but no guests have come so far till afternoon. People are still afraid to step out after what we witnessed in the second wave of the pandemic. But, life has to go on, and we are taking all precautions," Salman Ali, manager of Afghan Darbar restaurant, told PTI.
In the central market area, pan-India restaurant chain Pind Balluchi also reopened its outlet on Monday, but its manager said, dining services will practically begin from Tuesday.
"Today, most of the restaurants are cleaning the places, and a very few in our area have opened shutters. Small cafes have suffered huge losses in the lockdown and still feeling cagey to reopen as people won't come out much due to fear of Covid," said Rajesh Rana, manager of Pind Balluchi's Lajpat Nagar outlet.
In Amar Colony, famous for its eateries that sell tandoori momos, only a few had reopened, with barely two-three customers in sight.
Representatives of popular family restaurant Bikanervala at Lajpat Nagar said they are only serving customers in disposable plates besides following all other Covid protocols including sanitising and thermal scanning.
Mohammad Salim, branch manager of Barbeque Nation at Vivek Vihar, said dine-in will be started from tomorrow.
"Today, we are preparing ourselves for the dine in process. The restaurant is being sanitized properly and instructions are also being pasted at the entry gate. Our restaurant has seating capacity of 130 people. Half of the tables are already blocked to maintain social distancing while the customer will have their food," Salim said.
Jaydeep Mukherjee, Business Head, Smoke House Deli said, "While it is too soon to gauge a response, we are seeing smaller tables with groups of 2-4 people coming together".
"We are hoping for increased footfalls throughout the week. After over eight weeks of lockdown, there is a sense of longing for being able to go out and enjoy a meal. Our customers have observed our safety and hygiene protocols last year and are feeling safe to come back," he added.
Mayank Bhatt, Business Head - SOCIAL, said, the response on the first day is positive.
"We have only been operational for dine-in for a few hours, and the response has been very positive. While the lunch groups are still underway, we already have reservation enquiries for the evening and coming days. For now, we are seeing small groups of 2-3 people visit our outposts," Bhatt said.
At Raasta and Yeti restaurants, the process of sanitisation and vaccination of staff is going and the doors will be opened for public by next week only.
"We have just called our staff back and now in the process of sanitizing the outlets. We have also scheduled a vaccine drive for our staff and will open our doors by next week adhering to all the SOPs as 50 per cent seating, social distancing and others," said Joy Singh, co-partner, Raasta and Yeti.
According to Zorawar Kalra of Massive Restaurants Pvt Ltd which runs eatery chains like Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, Made in Punjab, Farzi Cafe and Pa Pa Ya, there is also going to be an element of "revenge consumption".
"Over the weekend in Gurgaon, the response has been very good. We expect a similar response in Delhi. There is also going to be an element of revenge consumption. People are raring to go out after the eight week lockdown. Our staff is fully vaccinated and the restaurants have been sanitised and fully prepped in anticipation of the relaxation of the lockdown.
"We are hopeful that we get longer extended timelines for operating as dinner time is crucial for the survival of a restaurant especially in Delhi where diners eat out late," he said.