Published: 15th April 2020
What COVID did to my restaurant: Here's how this Kochi restaurant Palaaram is coping up
In this series during the lockdown, we look at how the life and times of Yousuf Shameel, who runs Palaaram restaurant chain, has been impacted by the extended surge in business caused by COVID-19
When Palaaram, a restaurant in Kochi, curated a special menu for Easter 2020, its co-founder Yousuf Shameel wasn't quite hopeful about the number of orders he would receive. Although Kerala has a sizeable Christian population that celebrates Easter, the country was in its third week of lockdown, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, during the holiday. But to Shameel's surprise, the phones at all their three branches rang continuously from Saturday morning itself. Customers were eager to try the restaurant's duck roast and pearl spot fish fry - dishes that are usually mandatory on the dining table every Easter. "I was quite surprised. When we curated the menu, I didn't expect so many people to place their orders," says Shameel, who runs the restaurant along with his brother Shaheen Abdul Salam and Hima Pulludan. "We, in fact, struggled a little to source enough duck and fish, considering most places are closed," he says.
Shameel says that this is the first time since the lockdown that he's received so many orders in a single day. "Since the lockdown came into place, we haven't been able to make enough profit. The trend has been quite unpredictable. On some days, there will be enough orders and on others, there will barely be any," he says, "However, we chose to remain open, following all the regulations laid down by the government. Initially, the restaurants were open until 5 pm and now, they're open until 8 pm. It's not just about us but a lot of employees are dependent on us as well. We couldn't let them go broke." The restaurant's staff members are split into two teams, who work on alternate days.
Even though most of the popular dishes are still available in Palaaram's delivery menu, there are a few changes. "We have altered the menu a bit. Some of the special items are not available now because there's no demand for them. People mostly order chapathi, parotta and ghee rice - food that they eat every day," he says. Palaaram has partnered with both Swiggy and Zomato to get food delivered. "We follow the guidelines set by the government as well as our delivery partners. There are sanitiser dispensers, the kitchen is quite hygienic and our entire staff wears masks. Also, we maintain a safe distance between people," says Shameel.
Now that the Easter menu has become a hit, the restaurant also made paalada payasam for their customers on Vishu. "We obviously did not make a sadya. It would have been a tough deal to pack all the dishes," Shameel concludes.