by Akhilesh K Prasad
The government has a stringent set of safety rules to be followed by hotels and restaurants on their premises. The concerned authorities need to be satisfied with due compliance even before the licence to operate is issued to an establishment. The lapse in the following safety and precautionary norms can result in penalties or cancellation of licences. However, despite this, there has been a spate of accidents in hotels in recent times that point to the fact that there are shortcomings yet, in the way hotels and restaurants are operated in India.
The fire in two restaurants, 1Above and Mojo’s Bistro at Mumbai’s Kamala Mills in late 2017 resulted in 14 casualties. This was a wake-up call for stakeholders including restaurant owners, staff, government functionaries as well as guests. The event led to patrons questioning BMC on regarding the implementation of safety rules. In response, the BMC was quick to demolish illegal structures that were said to have been added on by restaurants.
Nevertheless, social media was rife with questions about fire safety measures in high- density restaurant locations in metros. Open flames, hot equipment, electrical connections, cooking oil, cleaning chemicals, paper products, wooden furniture, and lack of detailed safety measures made these localities high-risk zones.
Bearing this in mind, in January 2018, the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) established a self-regulatory system over and above the government’s prescribed rules and norms as cautions for disaster. The objective was to boost safety at 5,500 hotels and restaurants that are its registered members.
Earlier, NRAI membership was provided on the basis of a copy of a restaurants licence to operate. Fresh applicants are now compelled to comply with the stringent set of rules before they are granted membership. Existing members are also under obligation to follow the same, else they may be delisted. External agencies have been roped in by the NRAI to conduct mandatory checks to ensure compliance.
Under the norms, copies of all statutory licences for fire safety and operations are to be submitted by members to NRAI. Fire safety officers are to be employed by all member outlets. It is mandatory to install and recharge fire extinguishers, mark fire exits and ensure that all guests are well informed about the same.
While fire norms vary from state to state, most elements are in common. The NRAI is also putting together a safety protocol for public awareness. Specific to safety, NRAI will be advising members on self-regulation aspects of preventive maintenance, staff training and emergency plans.
On the flipside, it is said that two-thirds of the restaurant industry is unorganised and therefore susceptible to flouting norms and not caring for disaster management. The NRAI has issued certificates of compliance with respect to safety to members who have satisfied the norms and hopes that customers will shun all establishments which fall short of standards so that the balance automatically shifts in favour of legit entities.