By Eleftheria Paizanou
Owners of food and drink businesses are in search of a survival formula due to the strict protective measures they are called to adhere to upon reopening on May 21, under which restaurants, cafeterias, bars and other related businesses will temporarily have to only make use of their outdoor spaces to contain the spread of Coronavirus.
Although the relevant protocol has not yet been finalised, insider information says that tables will need to be at a distance of two to three metres from each other and there should be no more than four customers at each table.
According to restaurant business owners, these measures will slash their number of tables and clientele by half, and certain small businesses will need to operate with only two or three tables. Other owners are considering not reopening at all due to their limited outdoor area.
Restaurateurs are becoming increasingly anxious about not being able to cover their operating costs and salaries under the new reality. The restaurant sector in Cyprus employs 25,475 people.
We have lost the game
Restaurant owner Antonis Kotsi told Phileleftheros that it would be better if the government took into account the views of restaurateurs and hoteliers.
“People as well as decision-makers have the wrong view of the profit a restaurant makes. They see a full restaurant and think that we are rich but we can barely meet our obligations,” he said, adding that cutting capacity in half will make the business unsustainable.
“We have 10 tables outside of which we will only be able to use five. How can we pay 15 staff and 20 suppliers that we are working with?”
Kotsi said that many restaurant businesses are considering closing until autumn, and expressed the opinion that municipalities should follow the example of Greece that made available to restaurants some space in squares that are not being used as well as pavements to place additional seating. Kotsi believes that this would allow for a safer service to customers while boosting the business at the same time.
“If you open the business, you return to normality as far as payments go but there is no normality for operations.
“The rules that will be imposed clash with the very essence of ‘eating out’, which will shrink our clientele further. Our strongest weapon is our smile, and if you hide that under a surgical mask, we have lost the game,” he concluded.
Expenses are running
Restaurant owner Antros Varosiotis stressed the need of support to businesses by the state, noting that operating expenses are running and solutions are needed to stop them.
“Our rent is €9.800, salaries are €30,000 and we have €50,000 worth of cheques to suppliers. We are in trouble,” he said, noting that without support from the government, especially with rent, the business will be unable to meet these obligations.
On the measures restaurants are called to apply, he said that the requirement for 2-3 metres distance between tables makes sense given the situation, adding that the restaurant staff are already following protective measures.
“Large businesses will not have that great an issue. We can normally accommodate 130 people and with the measures that will drop to 40-50. In any case, we don’t think we will have as many customers as before because people will not go out,” he concluded.
Working with take away and delivery
Stephanos Procopiou, a small restaurant owner, said that as of May 21 he will not be able to have tables inside his business and can only place a small number of tables outside. Before the outbreak, he had a 16 people capacity.
“From May 21 we will essentially be working with take away and delivery until the measures are lifted. It goes without saying that our turnover will take a hit. We are hoping that we will be able to get back on our feet by the end of the summer,” he concluded.
Three to four tables
Christoforos Stylianou says he will have 1/3 of the tables at his restaurant.
“Our outdoor area is small, so you can imagine how hard it will be with 2-3 metres distance between the tables,” he said.
Before the outbreak there were 12 tables outside, he continued, but after May 21 there will only be 3-4 tables.
“We will have to adhere to the measures proposed by the experts and we will comply until the situation improves. We will arrange our space accordingly,” he said, mentioning that his business is already working with take away and delivery and will continue doing so after May 21.
Changes are not possible
Restaurant manager Irene Kefala believes that the measures will affect business to a great extent.
“Business will go down a lot compared to the same period last year or before Coronavirus,” she said, adding that it will not be possible to modify their outdoor area because the restaurant is in an alley (stoa).
“We cannot extend our space to add more tables so it will have to stay as is,” she said while voicing her concern that customer numbers will drop.
We adhere to measures
Alexandros Alexandrou who manages a cafeteria, does not believe the business will be affected as it mainly works with take away, adding that business is in fact progressively increasing.
“We will place 10-15 tables at 2-3 metres apart from one another with a capacity of four people per table. I hope we can return to normality soon,” he said, mentioning that both the staff and the customers adhere to self-protection measures.