As California reopens, Indian restaurants face revenue & staff crunch


From Tuesday, June 15, restaurants in California are allowed to operate at 100 percent seating capacity — something one of the sectors worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic is looking desperately forward to.

Industry insiders said they were not expecting things back to what they were before Covid struck, but were hopeful.

Ranjan Dey with guests at New Delhi restaurant. Photo sourced by indica News

Ranjan Dey, owner of New Delhi restaurant in San Francisco, told indica News that he could “see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Dey, who has hosted a Dining4India charity to help find Covid in India, said normalcy was still far away.

I am at 20 percent of pre-Covid [revenues],” Dey said. “It is going to take six months to get to 40 percent of pre-Covid as national tourism kicks in and another six months to get to 70 to 80 percent of pre-Covid when international tourism kicks in.”

He added: “It is never going to be the same again…. I hope by 12 months we will have a new normal.”

Kalidas Raju of the Indo-American Restaurant Association in the San Francisco Bay Area told indica News on Sunday, June 13, that they were still awaiting clarity.

We are still waiting for the guidelines and the direction to follow from the health department,” said Raju.

The association has as members more than 70 Indian-American owners of restaurants.

He said at present the association restaurants allow 50 percent occupancy, “I am looking forward to 100 percent on June 15,” Raju added.

Raju echoed Dey on the state of business. He said that at present 50 percent of the restaurant is occupied and the weekend is good but weekdays people are not coming in and the offices are empty.

Asked what other challenges he and other restaurants see, Raju said: “Labor shortage is the big problem. They were laid off, and now are on unemployment, so they are not willing to come back to the job.”

He said a lot of fine-dining restaurants are closed because of labour shortage.

Look, I am not blaming the government but the government is giving them free money and they don’t want to work,” Raju told indica News.

Even if they come for work, they are asking for cash. We don’t want to do that. They are not interested in working. I hope our state government takes this seriously. Employment is there.”

He pointed out that Indian restaurants were labour intensive because of the cuisine. Employees serve, cooking, cut meat and vegetables, and wash them. “In our Indian food, you cannot keep frozen foods. For example, dosa — you serve hot, you cannot freeze. So, there is a lot of work.”