Bird Flu scare: Restaurants swing into damage control; issue advisories to reassure consumers

NEW DELHI: The recent bird flu scare unfurling across the country has compelled restaurants to switch to damage-control mode. The outbreak comes in as restaurants have just recently started reviving the “dining-out experience”, since the Covid-19 lockdown. With fewer Covid-19 cases in the country, certain restrictions have been lifted considerably since the end of the previous quarter. However, that doesn’t change the fact that about a third of restaurants and bars have shut permanently because of the pandemic. Restaurants now have the added responsibility of maintaining exceptionally high-quality standards when dealing with chicken dishes, whilst reassuring consumers.
Chicken is one of the largest, most popular selling cuisines among non-vegetarians in the country. However, since the outbreak, many popular chicken brands have become victims of low sales. Some of which include- Yum! Brands-owned KFC, Lite Bite Foods-owned Punjab Grill, and Asian Cuisine chain Kylin.
In a recent interview, a KFC spokesperson broke their silence on the issue by stating, “We have seen a drop in the sales momentum over the past few days. It is difficult to attribute this impact to any particular development. Several factors as the ongoing protests and harsh winters in the north, among others, are in play at present.”
According to a report issued by the World Health Organization, the temperature prescribed for cooking poultry is 70°C. To this, the spokesperson added that the chicken served at KFC India is cooked at 170°C, which is much higher than the prescribed temperature, and therefore, safe to consume.
Managing Director of Kylin, Mr. Saurabh Khanijo also spoke on the issue, saying that consumers are now trying to avoid chicken dishes. “They’re looking for more fish options, especially with fish being in season. Sales of chicken items have dropped by 10-15%.” He added in his statement.
Director at Lite Bite Foods, Mr. Rohit Aggarwal said that there has been a great drop in chicken sales in their restaurants, especially in Chennai and Kerala. “We are reassuring consumers about the safety of chicken across our restaurants.” He added.
Meat delivery companies like FreshToHome and Licious, and food delivery platform Zomato, recently sent out detailed mailers to consumers on how to adhere to the safety protocols when consuming chicken. FreshToHome went a step further, explaining how their chickens are raised in bio-secured farms under the strict supervision of veterinarians.
Food joints like Mainland China, Farzi Café, and Made in Punjab stated that although there hasn’t been any impact on their chicken sales, they are issuing advisories to consumers on the safety of chicken products. Chairman of Speciality Restaurants that operates Oh! Calcutta and Mainland China, Mr. Anjan Chatterjee stated, “We have reviewed the developments and the needle on sales has not moved down. But following reports of cases and considering we are still going through the coronavirus, we are issuing advisories on the same.”
A spokesperson for McDonald’s India, North & East stated that their chicken products undergo 64 stringent quality checks, right from the farms to its restaurants.
What has further impacted the sales of chicken and chicken products in North India is the ban on the interstate transportation of hens. By looking at the current situation, it looks like people will be hesitant of consuming chicken dishes for a while indeed.

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