By: Mohammad Omar Farooq
The world has been taken aback by the pandemic that has swept away the norms of Pakistani society and has caused a disruption in nearly every sector. The fast food industry is no different. In a recent talk with the general secretary of all Pakistan Food Association ( PFA ) Advocate Razi Ahsan stated that the industry Is set to face a decline in dine in by 100% due to the government issued SOP and a reduction in sales by at least 75% due to fears over the spread of COVID-19 The general secretary continued to proclaim “ for businesses to insure their survival they will need to adapt to the changes required to meet the unique circumstances that we find ourselves in or else we will face severe repercussions.” This is in line with what has happened around the world. China had issued special permits to delivery drivers during the Wuhan lockdown only after they had complied with the CCP’s SOP’s. An example being that a Pizza Hut delivery driver tested positive for the viruses and he along with the 71 families he delivered to be quarantined in Delhi. This all is due to the lack of preparation and equipment available to the Restaurant owners and so to reduce the risk and keep the industry afloat the general secretary asserted the need to adapt and upgrade the Restaurant’s to international standards, now more than ever. He stated “This SOP could be a blessing in disguise; This will be able to help us create certain changes that will be able to accelerate the modernization of the industry that will allow Pakistani food chains to compete with international ones. The main thing that is holding back local chains from expansion is that we are more labour oriented whereas international ones are heavily automated with only the minimal required staff hired. ” This Pandemic has caused many businesses to suffer financial losses and to comply with the government SOP will cause further losses especially with an expected 75% decrease in sales with maintained fixed costs. With this scenario most Restaurant owners would opt for a one off expense in automated kitchens which would not only reduce the risk of spreading the virus as there would be less humans in the kitchen, but also will save the businesses money in the long run as well as optimizing efficiency and allowing the increased profits which will undoubtedly come once normality returns in the world. Another way to enable safety during these testing times is to promote the use of online banking and credit cards. This will not only allow the economy to become documented which the government desires, but will also help in the reduction of the spread in the virus as one of the main ways it spreads is through money to money hand transfer. This conversion to the use of virtual money will indirectly mean the boom in the creation of bank accounts, which will allow the individuals to take advantage of government and bank schemes to help their social lives. The promotion to use virtual money is a win-win situation as it keeps the restaurants safe and free from any covid-19 liability and it promotes an opportunity for those who do not have bank accounts to create one and improve their social lives. The Restaurant time to operate allowed by the government is between 8 am to 5 pm which in Pakistan accounts for only 25% of daily sales and so to function in this torrid time the Restaurant must take some essential survival steps, the first being layoffs. No matter how Immoral it may sound the reality is that a Restaurant is first and foremost a business and a business’s primary objective is to survive and be able to provide a livable wage to their employees, and to be able to do that if they must reduce their staff than they have every justification to do so after all if to save the body a limb must be sacrificed than that is what must be done. The second step to survive is to reduce prices to provide an inclusive opportunity viable for the wider demographic. The current price rate was not affordable for the average Pakistani who earns a minimum salary of Rs. 17,500, someone like that is not able to spend an average of Rs 1,000+ on a single sitting and this is a perfect opportunity to revise the price structure to bring the meals in a more attractive price range, one which the maximum amount of people can enjoy. That can be achieved by having a limited operating time during peak hours, that added with a reduced staff should help the restaurant owners to have a net monthly profit rather than breaking even or even going into a loss. This should help the national economy to recover within a few months after normality is achieved in the world. These suggestions may be in some cases extreme but all of these are necessary to make sure the industry survives and is able to thrive in the coming future as industries such as agriculture, construction and food are the backbone of the Pakistani economy and their survival and progression are directly linking with how well Pakistan comes out of this crisis and we must be stronger after this pandemic is over, we must.
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