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Stop. Look. Go… before you decide to eat out

- Makar Sankranti break for chefs downs shutters of restaurants, highway dhabas for at least a week

Eating out plans may have to be rescheduled, or put off even, for a week as many restaurants and hotels have either shut shop or are offering a limited fare in view of Makar Sankranti, the traditional festival that sees chefs, waiters and support staff opting for leave.

Almost all the popular eateries in Jamshedpur, especially those dotting NH-33 that links the steel city with Ranchi, have been compelled to down their shutters till January 20 with staff having left for home to celebrate Tusu Parab, one of the biggest festivals of tribals of the region.

It’s the same story in the state capital.

The festival is on Tuesday (January 14) but with most of the staff — from Purulia, West Midnapore (Bengal) Chandil (Seraikela-Kharsawan district), Patamda and Haldipokhar (both around 35km from Jamshedpur) in East Singhbhum — having gone on leave from Monday, eateries are left with no option but to shut down.

“We have had to shut down our food joint for a week from Monday as it is very difficult to prepare and serve quality dishes without trained staff,” said Jayesh Amin, owner of Anand, a popular Bistupur eatery offering South Indian dishes.

Usually Makar Sankranti, or Tusu Parab, is celebrated between January 14 and 16 but festivities continue for a week in rural areas.

“We have been closing down our unit for a week since several years despite complaints from customers. There have been suggestions to organise alternate staff who do not observe the festival, but so far we have not been able to do that. The result is we suffer financially,” Amin added.

Ranchi’s popular take away Tasty Zone has downed shutters since Sunday. S. Pal, the owner of the outlet near Marwari College, isn’t sure when he can resume operations. “Last year, too, three cooks took leave and returned after two months. This time, I have warned them to be back by the end of the month,” he said.

Ranjan Kumar, owner of Hot Lips, another popular restaurant of Ranchi, is worried too. He said it would be difficult to run the place till January 20.

Ranchi Durbar is managing with one cook and three waiters less. “Yes, we will face problems but hopefully, we can manage for a few days as the four who have gone on leave have promised to join by Friday,” said manager Rakesh Kumar.

Around 15 popular dhabas on NH-33 have been forced to opt for the closure route.

Most hotels and eateries employ tribals as chefs. “Most of our staff are from villages. It is very difficult to find non-tribals who can cook quality food and are willing to work in dhabas. And since this is the most popular of tribal festivals, we have no option but to close down till January 20,” said Giridhari Singh, owner of Giridhari Hotel near Humid (Chandil) on NH-33.

He admitted commuters would be worst hit.

Prashant Singh (35), a Baradwari resident who works with a Jamshedpur pharmaceutical firm, rued the closure of highway eateries. “I have to travel to Ranchi often. And I love eating in dhabas. I will reschedule my trips till January 20 when the eateries reopen,” he said.

In Jamshedpur, around 20 restaurants tagged with well known hospitality addresses have cut down on their menu to tackle the staff crunch. “From Monday till January 20 we have to work with only 50 per cent staff. We have decided to do away with South Indian dishes and will be offering Chinese, Indian and Tandoori items only,” said Prabhakar Singh, owner of The Park, a restaurant at Hotel South Park in Bistupur and president of Jamshedpur Hoteliers’ Association.

On the flip side, some food joints have decided to make the most of the shutdown by completing annual maintenance work.

“I will be using this period of forced closure to carry out renovation of our outlet. Otherwise, it is next to impossible to have such work done while the hotel is in operation,” said Sudhakar Behra, proprietor of Sakchi Haragouri Mistanna Bhandar.