Food delivery business is trying to limp back to normalcy after discussions with police officials in major cities helped them get assurances that the delivery agents will be allowed to travel during the 21-day lockdown period.
But industry insiders pointed out that giving nod to food delivery services would mean allowing not only delivery partners, but also chefs, cooks, helpers, cleaning staff on the streets, thereby defeating the purpose of a lockdown.
While cities like Delhi started issuing curfew passes to restaurants, for them to get their staff to come to work is a problem and a major risk. Most of the restaurants are shut, while few still operational might be working with skeletal staff.
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"We got our curfew passes earlier today, but now we have to figure out supply of cooking essentials, as of now most of the restaurants are still shut," said Thomas Fenn, co-founder of Mahabelly, a restaurant in South Delhi.
The National Restaurant Association of India pointed out that more than 90 percent of their member restaurants are still shut.
"While delivery boys have been cleared by few state administrations, we need to find out how do we get our support staff to the kitchens in these times of a lock down, the number of passes required for this will be huge,” said Anurag Katriar, president, NRAI.
After yesterday's experience of delivery boys getting beaten up by police officers, most of them are staying indoors. It is also a health concern for the delivery boys. Even contactless delivery cannot assure of full safety of the delivery agents and the customers.
"Delhi-NCR, Maharashtra and Karnataka state governments have moved fast and already issued notifications to local authorities to let e-commerce operate in order to keep essential supplies intact. We are yet to see 100% impact in most states. We are grateful that a lot of other states are also in the process of issuing such notifications," said a Zomato spokesperson.
"I think only medicine, grocery should be allowed as essential services and restaurants can be kept shut for these days, else it will defeat the purpose of a lock down. Imagine if there are 1.5 lakh restaurants in a city with five people getting passes for each, we are looking at 7.5 lakh people on the ground, that is a huge risk for the country," said a restaurant owner from Mumbai on condition of anonymity.
As the country braces for a very tough three weeks, restaurant owners are trying to prioritise lives over commerce, since calling their staff to work would mean putting them at risk.
The restaurant owner quoted above said that people can survive 21 days on simple food and Maggi but venturing out now would mean putting someone else's life at risk.