By Gavin Gibbon
Ravi Chandran believes the country's brunch scene will take time to adapt to 'new normal'
A member of the Middle East Restaurant Association (MERA) has warned the industry will not recover to pre-Covid-19 levels until the second quarter of 2021.
Ravi Chandran, CEO of The Coffee Club, welcomed the partial reopening instructions from the government, but warned it would take some time to regain the confidence of consumers, who have been reeling from the global spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
Chandran told Arabian Business: “It’s all about the fear factor from the customers and consumers. If I’m going to go out and eat or if I’m going to be served cooked whatever it is, am I going to get the virus, because the virus can come back again?
“Until a vaccine is found, there is going to be a fear factor. How hygienic is this place? Are they following all the guidelines? Even the delivery stuff, we don’t know who is delivering and if this person is free of coronavirus.”
He added that the ‘new normal’, once Covid-19 is consigned to the history books, may have a huge impact on the country’s famous Friday brunch scene, in particular.
“For sure. For the brunches, there is a particular community that goes to brunch. It is going to take a while. But that’s buffet. You can go and cough in front of a buffet and you never know,” he said. “But people are so attached to buffet and Friday brunch here, it’ll take a while to come back.”
According to KPMG Lower Gulf’s latest report, ‘Navigating the pandemic’, F&B outlets in the UAE reported sales drops of up to 80 percent for the first week in March compared to the same period last year.
Chandran revealed he kept four branches open throughout the lockdown, two in Dubai and two in Abu Dhabi, which were available for delivery orders only. A further six are to gradually open this month – three in the capital and two in Dubai – with a particular focus on community malls.
There are currently 29 branches of The Coffee Club across the country, 21 of which have been granted rent relief from landlords.
However, measures of up to three months’ rent waivers have been welcomed, Chandran said further negotiations are necessary going forward, including the potential for turnover-related rent payments.
“What happens after three months is the question mark. Three months is not enough because your business is not going to pick up for the next six to 12 months. My rent is 18 percent of my sales and if I don’t make those sales now, how am I going to pay that,” he said.
“We need to negotiate with landlords to get an extended holiday or some rent relief or let’s work on turnover rent. There’s going to be conflicts.”