Malls, restaurants struggle as customers remain wary

(Representative image)

BENGALURU: Malls and restaurants are seeing extremely low footfalls since reopening earlier this month. Restaurants are particularly struggling, given early closure timings and the ban on serving alcohol.
While most retailers have opened their stores in the malls, the shopping complexes have at best seen 15-20% of the footfalls compared to pre-Covid times and mall owners do not expect the situation to improve before the festive season. DLF’s malls in NCR have footfalls of just 6,000 per day, compared to 30,000 in normal times, its executive director Pushpa Bector said.
Mall executives from across the country say sales and walk-ins have been hit because of restricted timings, gaming and movie arenas still remaining shut, and customers still being wary of stepping out. Footfalls at Shoppers Stop stores is down 70% compared to pre-Covid times, its MD and CEO Rajiv Suri said last week.
“It is a long journey and before Diwali there will be no positive vibes as there is no impulsive buy. Previously, the entire family used to come to malls but now it is just one person who comes in, buys what he has to and leaves,” Amrik Panesar of Capital Mall in Bhopal said.
For restaurants, both in high streets and in malls, footfalls are down to a trickle and customers prefer to take away food rather than dinein. The latter normally contributes more than half of the topline. The decision to shut restaurants down at 9 in the evening hasn’t helped either.
“The lack of alcohol sale is another factor. Sales have been very dismal, just 10-20% of previous times. Some restaurants in Delhi and Gurgaon have already closed again,” said Anurag Katriar, president of National Restaurants Association of India (NRAI) and CEO at deGustibus Hospitality.
Restaurant executives say delivery cannot replace dineins as it contributes just 10-12% of the topline and even that has taken a hit as people are still apprehensive about buying from outside. Higher costs of operating in malls have made the owners sceptical of opening before they see a sizable number of customers. Labour is also a problem as many of are yet to return from their native towns and villages. Katriar, who owns 27 restaurants mainly in Mumbai, has decided to shut four of them.
Prathik Shetty, owner of The Reservoire restaurant in Bengaluru, says the biggest revenue generator used to be corporate and group parties, but those are not happening at all. “Now, not even five people are walking in together. A big dampener is the lack of alcohol. People come here for an experience and now that they are not getting that, just having food is not a big interest,” he said.

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