Restaurant industry in Pakistan has been experiencing hard times since the outbreak of coronavirus. Lockdowns, closed weekends and restricted timings have been causing extreme disturbance for the restaurants to work and earn properly. It was also witnessed that majority of the restaurants were shut down during that time. Now, when there are no restrictions on the restaurants, the customers are still not that carefree as they used to be before the arrival of Covid-19; hence causing a setback to the hospitality industry in Pakistan overall. In such a scenario, the government departments dealing with the food side hospitality industry in Pakistan must act responsible and support the eateries to work and earn better but the situation is unfortunately opposite to it.
In the month of Ramazan when the restaurants’ business is already partially run, Punjab Food Authority (PFA) and other food departments were seen raiding the restaurants and putting heavy fines on them without any solid reasons. There was hue and cry in the market that such heavy fines by PFA would further deteriorate the situation for the restaurants and it would be impossible for them meet their expenses even.
I am personally not against PFA raiding the restaurants but such actions should be for the betterment of the restaurants not for the discouragement of this deprived sector. Tow restaurants in my knowledge were fined four lac rupees each without any major reason. Some other were fined in lacs and that also without any serious issue.
I humbly request the authorities from the platform of Lahore Restaurant Association (LRA) to please review and reconsider the policies as our collective motive should be to uplift the standards of the restaurants not to close them down permanently. If a restaurant is found doing malpractices, there should be some mechanism to upgrade and improve its quality and PFA should devise that. Putting heavy fines and closing them down is not the solution rather it causes corrupt practices.
I further suggest the authorities to involve the restaurants in their policy making process to bridge the gaps of understanding between inspection teams and restaurants’ staff members.
In short, a change in the current practices of food departments is direly required to give some relief to the restaurant industry in Pakistan.