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LEGENDARY RESTAURATEUR AD SINGH

Jasmeen Dugal  (click here to know more about this blogger)

AD Singh, Founder Managing Director, Olive Group Of Restaurants is legendary for game-changing gastronomy with Olive Mumbai, Olive Bar And Kitchen, Ek Bar, Guppy, Monkey Bar and Soda Bottle Opener Wala — each as soigné as the man himself. For many, 'Olive' is far more than a restaurant, far more than a hangout; it is a way of life. So, how does AD plan to maintain this guest experience when his properties re-open? Over to india's original rock-star restaurateur on how the pandemic is affecting the hospitality business and post- pandemic plans.

 

''There's no doubt that everyone's habits and the models of work themselves have now changed probably permanently… Many more will be working from home for a start while most have built the habit of cooking for themselves and these things will affect the dining- out business for sure. Restaurants are run on wafer thin margins and everyone's debts would have greatly mounted through the lockdown. Now the key challenge for all restaurants who manage to reopen will be how to at least run their businesses at break-even till the economy is restored to what it was before,'' he says. ''The Coronavirus hit the world out of the blue and has since been built up to be a big monster… A vaccine will take many months still and as such cases will keep happening. I'm hopeful that people have got acclimatised to this 'new normal' and will return to their old habits and patterns. We all need the economy to bounce back and for that we need to give people hope and support.''

 

Reopening requires a strategic plan. ''Our operating costs will definitely be higher but unfortunately the economy is in a terrible state so we don't think raising prices is a good idea. For restaurants like Olive we try to give the diner a special experience every time he comes. With all the new steps needed to minimize the risks we are working harder to keep the experience of eating with us fresh and exciting. Firstly, we looking to relate to our customers even better and work hard to improve their experience with us so that we can maximise our core business. Then, we are exploring innovative ideas in delivery to boost our business. Where possible, we will do delivery ourselves. Either way we will follow strict systems and processes with the delivery teams to manage the safety of our patrons. We have also been holding cooking workshops through the lockdown which are very well attended… and I have a couple of innovative ideas which we'd rather keep to ourselves for the moment… That said, we will suspend our popular bar nights for now as they get very crowded. These include the legendary Thursday nights at Olive Bandra, 'Weekendwali Party' at SodaBottleOpenerWala, guest artist nights at Monkey Bar, Jazz Nights at Toast And Tonic. Instead, our restaurants will offer cool events and activities that are fun without getting overcrowded.''

 

How do you feel the government should motivate and support independent restaurateurs, I ask? ''We feel the Government's priorities and ours are well aligned as we all are focused on supporting the working man and his family through this. Our industry— directly and indirectly— supports about twenty million jobs and survival of the food and beverage industry is critical for the government. The industry was looking to the government for support to help pay wages, like many governments around the world are doing. One specific suggestion is that most companies have been paying from their side a percentage of employees' earnings to Employee State Insurance Scheme [ESIS] month after month for years… for this ESIC provides a network of free medical facilities which is certainly helpful. However, the corpus that ESIC currently has owing to all the contributions from employers and employees is about Rs 94,000 crores…  Accordingly we have been requesting them to help support employees and their families who are starving at this time and have paid this insurance for a time just like this. Secondly, the government should open restaurants and movie theatres right away… there's no reason to keep them shut. These industries provide huge employment and revenues for the government and their owners know what needs to be done to keep customers safe. Customers themselves also know exactly what they need to see to give them comfort else they won't go back. So let citizens decide for themselves. Why regulate it? Thirdly, the government has power to defer license renewals and statutory payments… This will help ease the financial pressure on restaurants. Similarly, if it asks RBI to give instructions to banks to provide even more support to borrowers at this time that will be of great help.''

 

The Olive group has always focussed on philanthropy and there are several initiatives in place during the pandemic. ''As a restaurant group, we started 'Kitchens Against Hunger' a couple of years ago, to feed hungry children. We charge Rs. 10 on every bill at some of our restaurants and match that with Rs 10 from Olive. This money is contributed to certain NGOs to support their giving free lunches to children. During this lockdown, matters became worse as so many lost their jobs. Our local partners in Hyderabad and Bangalore opened 'YouthFeedIndia' which worked with local vendors, the government and local NGOs to provide food packages to hundreds of thousands of families. The Olive group and I raised funds to continue to support this effort under the banner of NRAI's 'Feed The Needy' campaign.'' Respect.
 

AD SINGH
AD Singh, Founder Managing Director, Olive Group Of Restaurants
 
AD SINGH
Olive Qutub
 
AD SINGH
Ek Bar
 
27-MAY-2020
 
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