Economy "Some restaurateurs will prefer not to reopen for lack...

“Some restaurateurs will prefer not to reopen for lack of profitability”, warns Jean Terlon, from Umih

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648x415 chaises empilees terrasse restaurant ferme paris 31 mai 2020 paris

Chairs stacked on a terrace of a closed restaurant in Paris, May 31, 2020 in Paris. – BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

  • The restaurants will be partially reopened as of May 19. First on the terrace, then indoors from June.
  • Positive news, according to Jean Terlon, vice-president of Umih. But which hides many disparities between establishments.
  • Because of a low risk of profitability, restaurateurs could choose to wait for a complete reopening.

For restaurateurs, it is soon the end of a long period of inactivity. While Emmanuel Macron last week confirmed the objective of a gradual reopening, professionals can finally organize themselves.

From May 19, restaurant and café terraces will once again be able to accommodate customers, with tables limited to six people and a reduced overall capacity. Constraints which push some to want to postpone their reopening in June, when the reception in the room will be – theoretically – authorized, but still under constraints. For 20 Minutes, Jean Terlon, vice-president of the Union of trades and hospitality industries (Umih) for the catering sector, details the challenges of this gradual reopening.

How did you receive the announcement of the reopening of the terraces on May 19?

There were two positive reactions. The first is to have a reopening program. The second is that the three weeks of consideration were respected. From there, there are so many parameters concerning the reopening of a restaurant, in particular the financial parameters concerning the aid… In June, July and August, the situation will be adapted to each restaurant, then there will be a balance sheet in August. Because the main idea is not to stop aid suddenly. Each restaurant has different settings, and each will adjust according to its location.

Does the partial opening of the terraces pose a problem for restaurateurs?

A terrace is very nice, but only 40% of them have real terraces. So on May 19, 60% of restaurants will not be able to reopen. With a terrace, the weather must be fine, there must be no wind, no rain. And when you open it, you open a restaurant. You reintroduce expenses without knowing the revenues. Not to mention the size of the terrace: if you have a capacity of 25 seats reduced to 15 or 10, there is no point in opening.

We are in the same situation as last year. With the same uncertainties, but with one difference: the vaccine. Some will prefer not to reopen for lack of profitability and wait for the restaurant to fully open in June.

How do professionals organize themselves?

From what we receive as information, they will think about the capacity of their terrace according to the protocols. If you have a terrace of 50 seats, you will make 25. Those with 20 seats will not open, stay in click and collect and keep their employees on short-time work.

I repeat: if behind, there are no recipes, it is not worth it. The politicians didn’t seem to understand the first time, they didn’t seem to understand the second. The climatic hazards are very important. You have merchandise, you have taken over your staff, but you potentially have no customers because of the weather. It is a technical and climatic problem.

Are there many restaurant owners who are reluctant to reopen?

We don’t have the exact number, they are waiting for government decisions. May is still very much afloat, and the real opening will be for June.

Are there difficulties in recruiting staff?

The big worry is this. What happened to the people who worked in the hotel and catering industry? Between 100,000 and 130,000 people who worked in catering have reoriented themselves. The employees in our profession have lived for eight months a normal life with evenings, without working on weekends, and that will make many people think. Wages paid for the hourly constraints of these trades, but today, some go into the construction industry or find work with more suitable hours to have a more serene family life.

It was already jobs in tension before the Covid-19, it will not get better. Some will say to themselves that ultimately, it is possible to do something else with a similar salary without the hourly constraints. We all asked ourselves a lot of questions.

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