Hyderabad: Hyderabadis and hospitality are synonymous. But a few hotels, including popular food courts, are taking the people for a ride by serving stale food, not maintaining clean kitchens and by using substandard ingredients for cooking.
Despite charging exorbitant prices for food and bottled water, many hotels and eateries are not adhering to the prescribed rules in terms of food quality and hygiene. And this, in the long run could dent the city’s image, many feel.
These irregularities were exposed during the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation’s recent raids on hotels and eateries. Early this week, GHMC officials visited a popular hotel in Secunderabad and were shocked to witness some glaring irregularities.
Apart from unhygienic conditions in the kitchen, rotten vegetables were found on the premises and also rampant use of single use plastic, prompting the GHMC to impose a penalty of Rs 1 lakh on the management.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, officials said. Every day, GHMC receives nearly 10 complaints of stale food being offered, unhygienic conditions, foul smell, foreign particles including hair at times, in the food etc.
This is mainly due to lack of awareness among customers about their rights and no proper means to lodge complaints against hotel managements.
Many restaurants charge Rs 50 for a water bottle and exorbitant prices for dishes. Yet, if they fail to maintain hygiene, then GHMC should seize such hotels, said Forum for Good Governance Secretary Padmanabha Reddy.
More importantly, GHMC should come up with an exclusive helpline number for lodging complaints regarding food adulteration, stale food being served and other related complaints. Hotel managements should be made to display the helpline numbers prominently at their premises so that customers could lodge complaints, if any, he said.
Admitting that poor standards were being maintained by some hotels and restaurants, Hotels and Restaurants Association of Telangana vice-president PK Dutt said customer satisfaction was very important and if that was not achieved, then it would leave a bad remark on the hotel industry.
While managements adhering to rules and conditions should be complimented, those flouting rules and maintaining poor standards should be punished, he said. Government should initiate strict action against such managements, mere levying a penalty would not suffice as paying Rs 1 lakh would not be a task for many managements, he added.
Apart from the people’s health perspective, the lethargy in cracking down on errant hotels was resulting in loss of revenue to the municipal corporation. As per rules, every hotel or restaurant should obtain trade license for their establishment but how many managements follow these rules in the city, he said.
There are nearly 20,000 eateries, including plush hotels, restaurants, tiffin centres and roadside kiosks in the city. Though health and sanitation officials of the municipal corporation claim to book cases and levy penalties, many hotels and restaurants do not fall in line.
This clearly indicates poor monitoring of the municipal corporation over the eateries in the city. And for a city with a population of over a crore and 20,000 eateries, there are just four food inspectors.
Given the skeletal manpower, the municipal corporation is literally unable to enforce the rules effectively and take stringent action against those failing to maintain the required standards of hygiene and maintenance.
“We need to check the kitchens, collect the samples of oil, raw materials, ingredients used for cooking. But it is not possible to keep a vigil with just a few food inspectors,” admits a senior official from GHMC.
Considering these challenges, the government has permitted recruitment of 26 Food Safety Officers. The process of recruiting these 26 Food Safety Officers is handed over to TSPSC and it was under process, he added.
Online food ordering, delivery platforms
Online food ordering and delivery platforms are coming in handy for many hotel managements to dispose food prepared with substandard ingredients and raw materials, especially leftover food.
According to a GHMC food inspector, many hotels are now setting aside special packs for orders placed through online food ordering and delivery platforms. Since customers would be consuming the food at their homes or offices, many hotels were packing leftover food. At times, they reuse the oil for preparing the dishes, he said.
Most of the complaints lodged were regarding non-vegetarian food being mixed with vegetarian food, especially rice. All they do is to clear chicken or mutton pieces and pack it. The delivery boys handover the same to customers, he said.