According to industry insiders, there are 50,000 to 60,000 restaurants across the country, and nearly 12 lakh people work in the sector
There are over a million employees in the country's restaurant sector and nearly 50 percent of them are at risk of losing their jobs amid the onslaught of the coronavirus.
Restaurants have been getting fewer customers since the detection of the first Covid-19 patient in Bangladesh on March 8. But as the 10-day countrywide shutdown began on March 26, restaurants were closed and the staff left the workplaces for their homes.
According to industry insiders, there are around 50,000 to 60,000 restaurants across the country, and nearly 12 lakh people work in the sector directly. Many of them work at restaurants on a daily basis.
"If restaurants remain closed for a long duration due to concerns regarding the coronavirus pandemic, nearly half of those employees could lose their jobs," said M Rezaul Karim Sarker Robin, general secretary of the Bangladesh Restaurant Owners Association.
Of the total restaurants in the country, around 8,000 are in Dhaka, where staff earn most from the tips given by customers.
Khandaker Ruhul Amin, president of the association, said a restaurant is also considered a food shop and it should remain open during such a crucial time so that people can get food.
But he alleged that their employees were beaten up by some policemen in Dhaka and the local administration in some districts fined several restaurants for remaining open.
"We are interested to keep restaurants open if the government ensures a favorable atmosphere," said Ruhul Amin.
He also demanded soft loans from banks to offset the impact of the shutdown.
The Dhanshiri Restora is a restaurant located on the Sonargaon Janapath road in Uttara area. Under the circumstances created by the coronavirus outbreak, it shut down on March 24 this year.
Mahbub Abedin, managing director of Dhanshiri Restora, said he has around 30 employees and most of them have left Dhaka.
"We don't know when the situation will improve, and we can do business as usual," he told The Business Standard.
Star Kabab and Restaurant – located at Dhanmondi – is another popular restaurant in Dhaka.
Mir Akter Uddin Dulal, the owner of Star Kabab, said, "Our employees were not interested to stay in Dhaka for health and safety reasons. We have allowed them to leave on humanitarian grounds.
"Still, we are not thinking about cutting out the employees. But it will depend on the situation."
It should be noted that the restaurant employees are one of the lowest paid service holders worldwide.
"We pay Tk8,000-9,000 to a restaurant waiter, including his meals and accommodation costs," said a restaurant owner wishing anonymity.
"But with tips from the customers, they earn around Tk12,000-15,000 per month," he added.
Saikat Hotel and Restaurant, which is located at the Satmatha area of Bogura and has 58 employees, closed on March 25.
"I used to get Tk250 on a daily basis, but now we are in a critical situation," said Md Monsur, a waiter at the restaurant.
Earlier, the government declared general holidays from March 26 to April 4, aiming to prevent the transmission of the deadly novel coronavirus.
However, kitchen markets, food shops, pharmacies, hospitals, and all emergency services will remain out of the purview of the general holidays.