An industry to be reckoned with

Colombo City Restaurant Collective launch

By Dimithri Wijesinghe

On 18 September, a gathering of Colombo’s most prominent restaurateurs launched “Colombo City Restaurant Collective” (CCRC) at The Stables, Park Street Mews. With an epithet of “empowering the restaurant industry”, the event saw the gathering of the city’s most prominent food and beverage industry personalities.

Amongst the invitees were former Mayor of Colombo A.J.M. Muzammil, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) Managing Director Johanne Jayaratne, Non-Cabinet Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution Dr. Harsha de Silva, and Minister of Tourism Development, Wildlife, and Christian Religious Affairs John Amaratunga who provided a statement expressing his congratulations to the organisers following the opening address by CCRC Asst. Secretary and MSD Capitol Holdings (Pvt.) Ltd. Partner/Managing Director Dinesh Wijesinghe.

Amaratunga stated: “In the old days, not so many restaurants existed, but now, it’s almost difficult to even keep track of how many have come up, which is a great thing. They’re doing good work to bring our country back to normalcy and by October, things would pick up.” The Minister took care to coyly mention that the elections were just around the corner, stating: “Elections are coming up and it has nothing to do with food and beverage, but…”

Dr. de Silva took the opportunity to wish everyone the best in their efforts to come together, adding that he too is an avid patron and that it is only best that the restaurateurs unite.

“Harpos single-handed effort to register with the authorities and turn into revenue the incentives that the Government affords the bigger establishments is commendable,” he said, adding that when it came to what was expected following the Easter attacks, “we’re happy to note that our predictions have been proven wrong and people are coming back and things are picking up”.

Of course, the Minister too made a note of the impending elections, stating: “Elections are in less than nine weeks.

You’ll know who’ll be leading this nation for the next five years – that’s the democracy that we enjoy.”

The President of the collective, Harpo Gooneratne, who is also CEO and Founder of Harpo’s Hotels, Cafes, and Restaurants, carefully highlighted the key factors leading up to the formation of the CCRC.

Harpo expressed his gratitude to his fellow restaurateurs, stating: “Our months of hard work to make this happen have proven to be worthwhile, thanks to everyone in the committee. We know those in the restaurant business are busy people, but they still found the time. Thank you.”

The CCRC consists of two kinds of memberships – one registered with the Tourist Board and those not registered, like cafes. The body will represent food and beverage outlets in Colombo and according to Harpo, they hope to network with government officials, especially the Tourist Board, Excise Department, etc.

Harpo said: “To make this industry an industry to be reckoned with – more bars, more cafes, more restaurants is the way forward.”

Chef Gerard Mendis from the Chefs Guild of Sri Lanka and a patron of CCRC stated that this is indeed a historic occasion and that while such a collaboration was spoken of a couple of years back, it has finally happened now. He added that it is owed to a few key players making the decision to get together and finally form it.

Chef Mendis provided that what’s most important is visibility. He encouraged the food and beverage industry get involved with the Chef’s Guild and take part in the “Culinary Art Food Expo 2019” – Southeast Asia’s biggest food and hospitality show which will be held on 21, 22, and 23 October 2019.

Photos Eshan Dasanayaka