Restaurants and street side vendors see low returns so far due to social distancing, take away emphasis and tomato and onion shortages

The hope is for better business with 50 percent seating being allowed now

 The third phase of unlocking which started from 7th September from 5 am onwards meant that shops other than those selling essential items could also open up following the mandatory health protocols.

In terms of restaurants people were only allowed to take away orders until 11 September.

Although it was just for a few days, initially they did not see good signs if such trend was followed for a longer period.

They said that although the take away system was better than not opening at all they stated that people were not very accepting about it.

The hope is for better business as the government said that restaurants can seat around 50 percent of their seating capacity though the emphasis must be on take aways.

 One of the restaurant owners said, “Sometimes there are customers who requested us to let them eat or drink quickly in hiding and we are not allowing it, and this sometimes was making people feeling aggravated and we may lose some customers in the long run”.

She said that they tried explaining to a few of them but just to see them lash out.

She added, “One of the customers was quite rude, he said that if he cannot sit alone and eat, he would rather make it at home by himself and not come to the restaurant”.

 Norzin and Kinley Bhuti who operate a combined shop Sergi Bangchung at the taxi stand said that they are both sole earners for their families and the times have been hard on them.

She said that these days there are very few customers as compared to that before the lockdown. She added “previously I used to make momos, chili chops, paezey and other items.

She said that she used to buy around 10 kilograms of items for the shop on a regular basis compared to the 3 kilograms worth of shopping she does now of which she said that people are reluctant to take away and eat and most of the eatables go to waste at the end of the day.

She said that due to the lack of onion and tomato supply she had not been able to make items like momos and paezey and even if she did buy those vegetables it was costlier.

Norzin said that she is at least doing somewhat okay with the reserves she had and did not have to apply for Kidu as of yet.

She added “in case of my friend Kinley she had to apply for His Majesty’s Kidu from which she received 2 installments of money for her family’s bread and butter”.

She said that they are both widowed. Both Norzin and Kinley are single mothers, the former having 2 and the latter 4 children.

 At Pem Dechen restaurant, owner Pem Dechen said that currently there is nothing much to do at the restaurant and 3 of her restaurant staffs are on leave having received Kidu. She said that if things go back to normal sooner, she would call her employees back at the restaurant.

She said that before the lockdown they could at least make about Nu 900 in a day but with the takeaway only rule the shop hardly generates Nu 300 and a lot of food goes to waste even though they do not cook as much as before.

 Similar experiences were noted at the Bhutan Laphing House and Raize restaurant which are located at the heart of the town. The proprietor of Bhutan Laphing House, Sonam Tenzin said that usually their shop would to be filled with groups of friends who wanted to chat and eat but as that facility is not available at the moment, they see fewer people coming to the shop.

He said that it is not very convenient to ask everyone to follow safety protocols and it would be better if people could realise that by themselves.

He added that even on reminding sometimes people do not use the Druk Trace app or maintain physical distance.

The shop owner ensured that they too followed extra measures from their side by putting on gloves and following other health precautions. He said, “Like in the press briefings it was said that although we have no community positive cases in Thimphu, we should still play our part in taking full preventive measure at all times”.

 Personnel at Good Vibes Tashi Dendup said that there was no significant change in terms of their delivery services and said that the only impact is from inability to serve the customers at the restaurant.

He added that they had not had tomatoes and onions for pizza toppings and other requirement since the lockdown, however they are currently delivering a few vegetable items, non-veg items with chicken and beef fillings, mushroom and cheese pizzas among other items like burgers.

He said that although they did not have tomato and onion as fillings for burgers and pizzas so far, they have not had any dissatisfaction feedback in taste resulting from it.

 Other regular delivery restaurants too claimed to have similar situation in terms of takeaway revenues generated. Mostly the smaller bars and restaurants faced hard time selling their products.

With the slight leniency after the completion of the unlock phases, shopkeepers now feel that they can hopeful look for better days and pray that there would not be a second wave of community transmission in the country.

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