South Asian eateries try ‘going local’ as recovery strategy

Dec 30, 2022, 10:01 PM | Updated: 10:14 pm
A street vendor sells food in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022. In Sri Lanka, where the...

A street vendor sells food in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022. In Sri Lanka, where the tourism-driven economy also has been hammered by political upheavals and shortages, the situation remains dire since COVID-19 hit in early 2020. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

(AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

NEW DELHI (AP) — Hotels and restaurants across South Asia have had to adapt and reimagine dining out since the pandemic ripped through the region, forcing many out of business.

Those that have survived are tapping local sources and going online.

In India, from hole-in-the-wall casual eateries to fine dining, restaurants were devastated by lockdowns and virus outbreaks, with millions losing their jobs since COVID-19 hit in early 2020.

In neighboring Sri Lanka, where the tourism-driven economy also has been hammered by political upheavals and shortages, the situation remains dire.

Saman Nayanananda, a food and beverage manager at a hotel chain in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, says going local for food sourcing and menu offerings is vital.

Nayanananda, who was in New Delhi recently for the South Asian Food for Thought festival, survived a devastating tsunami in 2004 that killed 230,000. He lived through a prolonged civil war that ended in 2009 and witnessed the aftermath of deadly 2019 Easter terrorist attacks. After every calamity, the economy managed to get back on its feet.

The struggle to recover for the nation of 22 million is infinitely tougher given Sri Lanka’s troubles with debt, fuel and food shortages, said the 50-year-old hospitality industry veteran.

“We had lot of challenges, including raw materials and the transport problems. A year after COVID, all hotels started food delivery. We were slowly recovering and then this economic crisis came. We ran out of both imported and local materials. Again back to zero,” said Nayanananda, who lost his job at a tourist resort in 2020 as everything shut down.

“We recovered from terrorism, from the tsunami, but this crisis, it has broken the middle class,” he said. With food inflation at 70% and hard currency to buy from abroad in short supply, going local both in terms of food sourcing and menu offerings is the only option.

“We came out with the concept of grow and sell. We replaced imported production with local production, coming up with innovative food items,” he said, mentioning dishes using locally grown sweet potatoes, cassava, yams and cowpeas, or black-eyed peas.

Across the region, hotels and restaurants are finding past business models obsolete. That’s forcing a reset in strategies as investments recover to meet rising demand from hungry diners eager to eat out again.

India’s food services market is expected to grow to $79 billion by 2028 from $41 billion in 2022, according to a report by the Francorp and restaurantindia.in. But the sector will still face supply delays or shortages, the report says.

Maneesh Baheti, founder and director of the South Asian Association for Gastronomy, said that the pandemic has raised awareness about health concerns and food sourcing, leading the industry to adopt more sustainable practices.

That includes offering dishes made with locally sourced ingredients.

“Eating fresh local produce according to season, returning to diets rich in nuts, legumes and green leafy vegetables, are trends that are here to stay as they engage customers who are now a health conscious-aware segment with deep pockets,” Baheti said.

“The entire food industry has realized the importance of promoting better health and the potential of wellness-based menus,” Baheti added. “Eating local and eating fresh also helps in reducing the carbon footprint since the dependence on transportation and refrigeration reduces the emission of green house gases,” he said.

As the food services industry rebuilds itself, restaurant owners say some practices born out of necessity during the pandemic can offer a way forward.

Many urban communities are experimenting with plant-based diets and growing farm produce on their rooftops and in backyards.

Siddharth Bandal, a partner at the Hideaway café and bar in the western Indian state of Goa, said they’ve learned to be nimble enough to adapt to changing customer behavior.

“It possibly made the sector stronger by exposing the weak spots and the industry has shown its resilience by adapting quickly. The pandemic made everyone more alert about hygiene. There is a renewed focus on guest experience and the eateries are evolving as they respond to the shift towards healthier food,” Bandal said.

In Colombo, Nayanananda began cycling to work and growing food at home after markets ran dry and it became difficult to feed his family of four.

In Sri Lanka and elsewhere in Asia, a wave of COVID-19 infections in China after it dropped its pandemic controls has revived worries over the risk of a return to shutdowns and other restrictions. But Nayanananda says he’s hopeful.

“What is important is to learn to live with what we have in our hands,” he said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


              People gather around a street food vendor in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022. In Sri Lanka, where the tourism-driven economy also has been hammered by political upheavals and shortages, the situation remains dire since COVID-19 hit in early 2020. Across South Asia, hotels and restaurants are finding past business models obsolete, forcing a reset in strategies as investments recover to meet rising demand from hungry diners eager to eat out again. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            
              A street vendor sells food in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022. In Sri Lanka, where the tourism-driven economy also has been hammered by political upheavals and shortages, the situation remains dire since COVID-19 hit in early 2020. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
            Saman Nayanananda, centre, Food and Beverage Manager, speaks to a guest at Mount Lavinia hotel in Sri Lanka, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. "A year after COVID, all hotels started food delivery. We were slowly recovering and then this economic crisis came. We ran out of both imported and local materials. Again back to zero," said Nayanananda. "We recovered from terrorism, from the tsunami but this crisis, it has broken the middle class," he said. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena) A local restaurant in Goa, India, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Across South Asia, hotels and restaurants have faced profoundly challenging circumstances over the past few years, rendering business plans ineffective and forcing a reset in strategies, say industry observers. Experts say revenge eating out after the pandemic restrictions were eased in 2022 have helped bring back investments in the restaurant business. (AP Photo/Vineeta Deepak) Sri Lankan hospitality professional Saman Nayanananda stands in front of a book stall at the South Asia Food For Thought Festival in New Delhi, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. Nayanananda survived a devastating tsunami in 2004 that devoured thousands, lived through a prolonged civil war that ended in 2009 and witnessed his city being mauled by the deadly 2019 Easter attacks. Then came the brutal pandemic, followed by a debilitating economic crisis that has battered the lives of millions in the island nation. (AP Photo/Vineeta Deepak) People sit for a meal at a local restaurant in Goa, India, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Across South Asia, hotels and restaurants have faced profoundly challenging circumstances over the past few years, rendering business plans ineffective and forcing a reset in strategies, say industry observers. Experts say revenge eating out after the pandemic restrictions were eased in 2022 have helped bring back investments in the restaurant business. (AP Photo/Vineeta Deepak) A street vendor prepares food in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022. Hotels and restaurants across South Asia have had to adapt and reimagine dining out since the pandemic ripped through the region, forcing many out of business. In Sri Lanka, where the tourism-driven economy has also been hammered by political upheavals and shortages, the situation remains dire. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena) Locals spend an evening at a cabana in a hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Hotels and restaurants across South Asia have had to adapt and reimagine dining out since the pandemic ripped through the region, forcing many out of business. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

AP

Associated Press

Ohio city rewrites abortion ban, advocacy groups end lawsuit

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Groups advocating for professional social workers and abortion rights said they have succeeded in forcing a small Ohio city to significantly narrow its ban on conducting or recommending abortions and so have ended their legal challenge. The lawsuit by the National Association of Social Workers and the Abortion Fund of Ohio […]
12 hours ago
FILE - The Treasury Department is seen near sunset in Washington, Jan. 18, 2023. The national debt ...
Associated Press

Lots of sound and fury on US debt, but not a crisis — yet

WASHINGTON (AP) — For all the sound and fury about raising the nation’s debt limit, most economists say federal borrowing is not at a crisis point … at least not yet. The national debt is at the core of a dispute about how to raise the government’s legal borrowing authority, a mostly political argument that […]
12 hours ago
FILE - Law enforcement get ready for a search after a small plane crash in Carteret County, N.C., o...
Associated Press

Lawsuits in NC plane crash that killed 8 settled for $15M

The families of five passengers killed in a 2022 plane crash off the North Carolina coast have settled wrongful death lawsuits against the companies that owned the plane and employed the pilot and the pilot’s estate for $15 million, family representatives announced Friday. All eight people aboard the Pilatus PC-12/47 died when it descended into […]
12 hours ago
FILE -  In this aerial photo taken with a drone, flood waters surround storm damaged homes on Aug. ...
Associated Press

Filipino workers: Oil company abandoned us in Hurricane Ida

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — As Hurricane Ida struck the Louisiana Gulf Coast in August 2021, Renato Decena and Rosel Hernandez watched the storm punch a hole in the roof of the bunkhouse where they were sheltered — abandoned, they allege, by their offshore oil industry employer as the hurricane bore down. “I could not think […]
12 hours ago
FILE - Tubes direct blood from a donor into a bag in Davenport, Iowa, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022.  Th...
Associated Press

FDA moves to ease rules for blood donations from gay men

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is moving to further ease restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men and other groups that typically face higher risks of HIV. The Food and Drug Administration on Friday announced draft guidelines that would do away with the current three-month abstinence requirement for donations from men who have […]
12 hours ago
FILE -Brian Walshe listens during his arraignment Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, at Quincy District Cour...
Associated Press

Internet evidence key, but not enough in no-body murder case

BOSTON (AP) — Prosecutors in Massachusetts are basing their murder case against a man whose wife is presumed dead but whose body has not been found in large part on a series of gruesome internet searches he made around the time of her disappearance. Scouring data on personal electronic devices is a common strategy in […]
12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
...
Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
South Asian eateries try ‘going local’ as recovery strategy