For Byg Brewski, the challenge of reduced seating has not been such an issue because we’re a large-format space. Even at 50% occupancy, we’re doing 40% of business, which is manageable in the current scenario.
As the top line has reduced drastically, the pressure of balancing P&L has come down to lowering manpower costs. Salary cuts have impacted people’s motivation levels and these employees are now looking outside of the industry to supplement their income.
Added to this is the non-availability of part-time workers in India to take care of the weekend r ush. With the pandemic, we have realised that we can reduce manpower costs and yet keep the business sustainable by optimising on technological support.
We came up with the concept of Food Ambassadors and contactless dining, which is essentially technological support available on each table inside the restaurant. Three people are required to implement any new process: the creator, the executor and the auditor. At Byg Brewski, we have these three people under one roof, and they are our ‘Covid ambassadors’.
Support from the industry has poured in from various avenues, which is truly heartwarming. The National Restaurants Association of India (NRAI), along with PepsiCo, launched a relief scheme called Relief for Restaurants (R4R), where they helped restaurant employees to get rations.
Diageo has offered a cumulative sum of Rs. 75 crore for the next two years in the form of subsidies while purchasing from their brand portfolio. Releski hosted the first-ever online tournament for bartenders, which had cash prizes sponsored by 13 beverage brands.
Most of the imported goods have been a challenge, especially items which are used in Asian cuisine, and brewery-related products. Raw material prices have increased due to the scarcity of goods and the low frequency of container ships docking in India. We haven’t faced many such issues with local supplies.
Because the footfalls have gone down, the pressure to maintain the top line has fallen on the selling price. But increasing the selling price of a menu in an economically depressed market is a double-edged sword. We are neither able to cut spend on raw materials nor increase the prices of our products.
The F&B industry seems quite glamorous but is a heavily cash-flow-dependent industry. We get instant money and we repay the expenses with that income. There is not a single restaurant that can run for more than 3 months if operations are halted.
Because of the nature of the business, we need to do at least 60% of our pre-pandemic business to manage the more challenging fixed costs such as rentals, licenses, etc. These costs directly impact a business break-even point.
In the personal space, I’ve learnt the importance of resilience. Keeping one’s head above water and not getting bogged down when the going gets tough has been a key learning.
The pandemic has also brought into limelight the importance of processes in a restaurant. Agility or agile thinking is the present norm in the professional space.
One should remember to “fail fast”, which means that if something doesn’t work out, fail fast in that or stop continuing down that route and try something else.
Another key learning has been the ability to understand the concept of ‘Do more with less’, or optimising resources at hand.