This came at a point when it was least expected. If you tell me you don’t know what has happened with the F& B Industry in the last 18 months, then I will consider that you have been sleeping under the rock. It has been a theme park roller coaster ride for an industry that just cant switch on and off its operations. You need procurement, staffing, maintenance and upkeep of the premises. Some of the restaurants which had to forcefully shut down had so many reasons to do so in this season. Le 15 Cafe in Mumbai (Puja went on to open another place), Punkah House in Bangalore by the Bombay Brassierie Group, Kimono club in Delhi, Qualia in Mumbai and many others have shut shop. Back in Kolkata, Mamagoto changed from a standalone to takeaway mode yet couldn’t survive and ultimately shut down.
Last year, just after the first wave when things were looking up, regulations eased a bit and a few year-end parties happened. As if that was the milestone. Wait, the second wave of pandemic came to India. It was severe than the first wave and again it was a sad period for the industry. In the meantime, there was retrenchment across all levels, roles got merged and staffing across restaurants was reduced. In Kolkata, things were worse with last year’s Aamphan, the devastating cyclone, and then elections this year. It was only from August-September that things started looking up.
Commercial LPG Price increase in India
This year Durga Pujo was the turning period. Often at a personal level, the chefs and restaurateurs didn’t mind expressing their happiness over the numbers which surpassed 2019 business figures. Alas, the sunshine lasted brief and it was again rainfall. There has been an escalation of price for vegetables and other ingredients in the last few months. The final severe blow came a couple of months ago. While in November, the commercial LPG gas prices increased by INR 266 per cylinder, in the month of December it again went up by INR 100. After the fresh hike, a commercial gas cylinder costs Rs 2,051 in Mumbai, Rs 2,174.50 in Kolkata and Rs 2,234.50 in Chennai. In Delhi, it costs Rs 2101 per cylinder.
When a key part of your food cost goes up (that is approximately 6 percent and varies in places), it creates a domino effect on your overall cost. It’s not something you can hide under the carpet.
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What does the commercial LPG Price increase mean to some of the restaurateurs in Kolkata?
For Nehan Khan, Owner of LA Bar and Kitchen, gas cylinders are an everyday necessity. Therefore, commercial LPG price increase will also have an impact on the cost of the food. There is no way one can risk the compromise of the quality of food or the ingredients used. Hence the dilemma. For Vanita Bajoria, Director of Lord of the Drinks, the dilemma is between increasing the price of the food which may eventually lead to loss of customer base or balancing the increased cost of production of food and quality.
There is a degree of uncertainty also with the ever-changing prices. Sonali Lakhotia, owner of the quaint cafe on Keyatala Road raised a valid point of ever-changing prices. Hence the change in costing and monthly expense plans. That makes the running tough.
Aminia, the nearing century-old restaurant, has implemented new measures to control the expenses. Kabir Azhar, Director Aminia Restaurants confirms to us that they have now developed ways to be more vigilant on the consumption of gas in kitchens.
It’s not only restaurants, in this season of the exceptionally high number of marriages happening, it’s the standalone caterers who also use commercial LPG cylinders and it’s a blow for them too. The rates of food for marriages are fixed months back. And then at the time of execution, if the cost of fuel goes up, then the caterer has to bear the cost from his pocket.
What will happen now? With Omicron slowly increasing its footstep, there is a sense of alarm that will erupt if things turn dangerous. This is the season for most of the restaurants and hotels to make up for the losses. From now till New Year, the mood is generally high and spirits are high flowing. People look forward to parties. However, it won’t be moolah making season for the restaurateurs. We can only hope that the New year brings in more prosperity
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