ITALY. 6 pm is closing time now, exactly when restaurateurs usually open for cleaning and preparation of the premises while waiting for the evening service, the one producing over 50% of the daily earinings.
Restaurants will be able to carry out only the lunch service, but a lot of people are working remotly and, since the decree “strongly recommends” moving only for urgent reasons for study, work and necessity, it is clear that going to a restaurant, even only for lunch is not facilitated.
We are at the second tragic closure in less than 8 months. The Ismea data relating to the first lockdown estimated that Italian restaurants would face a 34 billion euro crack in 2020 due to the economic crisis, the collapse of tourism and the drastic downsizing of out-of-home consumption. The second (definitive for many) closure will cost another 2.7 billion euros, according to FIPE. This time the Italian Government announces aid directly on bank accounts, but this will not help the catering industry: a stream of small and very small quality producers, which, without support, will jeopardize the entire national supply chain. A real collapse.
ABROAD. The approach is still restrictive, although the measures are easier, at least in the US. New York adopted the technique of reopening neighborhood by neighborhood, depending on the spread of the virus. Locals are allowed to charge a “Covid tax” of up to 10% in the bills and can keep tables outdoors despite the cold. In Wisconsin indoor seats were reduced by up to 25% following a bitter legal battle with trade associations. From New York to Chicago to Houston, many restaurants have set a ninety-minute time limit for walking in, eating, and paying the bill. In the old continent there is a more rigorous approach: all closed for a month in Belgium, with curfew included, hard line also in the Netherlands, after a first phase of less incisive decisions. In Great Britain new restrictions on pubs, bars and restaurants. Extreme measures taken in Wales, where the doors of restaurants will remain shut at least until 9 November. England has instead adopted an approach more similar to that of the Big Apple, identifying 3 risk tiers, with restrictions that increase as the level increases. The British catering sector is limited to table service only and pubs, bars, restaurants and other hospitality venues throughout England close at 10pm for all risk areas. Those who are in Tier 2 (high risk), for example London, are prohibited from sitting at a table with members who are not part of their household, while in Tier 3 considered to be at very high risk, such as area of Liverpool and Manchester, can only remain open those places that serve “substantial meals” (thus excluding the very widespread chains that offer takeway meals, bars, pubs etc). France, which had already adopted a curfew from 10 pm to 6 am, yesterday announced that a new lockdown will begin on Friday 30 October: closed bars, restaurants and non-essential shops, you can only go out to go to work or for medical reasons, but schools and factories will remain open. Germany is also preparing for new restrictions to contain Coronavirus infections with a “light lockdown”, as the German media define it, which from November 2nd will force bars to close and will leave restaurants only the possibility of selling take-away food.
The bitterness of the restaurateurs is not quantifiable, unlike the price to pay for this decision. Also because, as we know, a large part of the sector has adapted to the provisions regarding the containment of the virus and has “put on the table” all the precautions necessary to protect staff and guests: they has invested in procedures, protocols and equipment to ensure the healthiness of a dinner, not just on the plate. Here is the discouragement of restaurateurs. But, at the same time, they must keep fighting their daily battle to give their dream a future.
Italian restaurant owners are asking for real support immediately: tax relief for all employees’ contributions, tax credit for rentals and further financing of the “Fondo Ristorazione” (the fund created by the Itlaian government to support the sector). But good news arrive: the go-ahead from the Conferenza Stato-Regioni (cooperation between the Italian Government and the regions) to the implementing decree for the “Catering Fund” proposed by the Ministry of Agricultural Policies. Meanwhile, the Council of Ministers has just approved the so-called “Ristori Decree”: the allocation of over 5 billion euros is expected to provide resources (hopefully immediate this time) for the benefit of the categories of economic operators and workers affected by the restrictive measures of the last Prime Minister’s Decree. For restaurants that only opened in the evening, for example, it was decided to apply the coefficient of 200 percent. 150% will go to pastry shops and ice cream parlors. To give a concrete example: a bar owner who had obtained 2 thousand euros with the “Relaunch Decree”, will now be able to obtain 3 thousand euros, a large restaurant that had received 13 thousand euros, may have up to 26 thousand euros.
In spite of this, and until the funds will be in the bank accounts, the feeling continues to hover over the entire sector, this time nothing will be ok (ref. is made to the Italian motto of last spring lockdown “everything will be ok” /andrà tutto bene) and on the occasion of the World Pasta Day, the data relating to the consumption of the queen of comfort food. During the lockdown, global pasta consumption grew by 28% and so did its exports. Pasta was a regular guest in the kitchens of 98% of Italians: 62% consumed it almost every day, 30% between 2 and 3 times a week. We hope to be able to taste it soon in conviviality, preferably, in one of the 333,640 companies, which employ more than 1,252,260 employees, with 864,062 employees and 388,202 self-employed workers. (FIPE 2020 data)