‘I'm really not going to order game for Christmas'

‘I’m really not going to order game for Christmas’

Is it still fun to be a catering entrepreneur? Karin van Asperen, owner of cafe ‘t Heertje in Weesp, is no longer enthusiastic. “My motivation has really gone to zero. And I’m normally a really hard worker.” Take all the corona rules: guests no longer understand them, says Van Asperen. “And I hate having to send people away without a QR code.”

And on top of that, the closing times of the catering industry have been brought forward again: two weeks ago they went to 8 p.m., but from Sunday the catering industry has to close at 5 p.m.

How much sense does it make to open at all, Van Asperen now wonders. “Suppose I run lunch for twenty people. What I already pay for gas, light, purchasing…” Not to mention the costs for personnel.

Tijmen Vermaas, owner of the large catering business Tolhuistuin in Amsterdam, is also faced with this dilemma: open or not? “Lunch is just a difficult thing. It is never as lucrative as dinner.” The Tolhuistuin increased the lunch income somewhat by making sandwiches for meetings and conferences. “But they have all canceled as well.”

Only lunch is therefore financially unattractive, he says. “But it is nice to be able to keep people at work and to be able to work yourself.” Ultimately, the choice will probably fall on staying open, he says. “We’re trying to make the best of it.”

Only on weekends

The Netherlands is a cheese sandwich country, according to chef Emile van der Staak, owner of De Nieuwe Winkel in Nijmegen, which received a Michelin star this year. “We don’t have a business lunch culture like in Belgium or France.” And that’s a shame for a business like his. That is why, according to van der Staak, there is only one thing to do: his restaurant is only open on weekends. “It makes no sense during the week.”

The two weeks of light corona restrictions that preceded the ‘evening lockdown’ were also not ideal for De Nieuwe Winkel. Try serving six courses to guests who have to leave the house at 8 p.m. “Normally we are full months in advance, but now it was raining cancellations on Friday, when people don’t have time to get an early dinner.”

What is it like for catering entrepreneurs to have to adapt to new rules again? Vermaas van de Tolhuistuin says that he finds this a difficult period. “We have a lot of work to do in the hospitality industry. And when I read how many infections there are every day: we are far from having it under control. This is really not the last session of measures.”

Van Asperen is also not positive about the future. “Let’s hope we can open again soon. But I can tell you: I’m really not going to order game for Christmas. Because to be honest, I think we will have to close completely soon.”

And Van der Staak admits that he sometimes feels like “sickening. But, he says, “at the same time, I understand what is happening in the world. I am not blind to the situation in healthcare.”

A few months ago, things looked very different for the Dutch catering industry. After a lockdown, cafes and restaurants were allowed to open again in June. And with the QR code, with which guests can prove that they have been vaccinated, tested or recovered, there was even more space.

In June, Van der Staak decided to open De Nieuwe Winkel an extra day, on Monday. “Then I was called crazy. But I thought: it won’t happen to me that there will be another lockdown….” And although it was “not necessarily fun to work for six days”, it is now very calming that he has been able to build up a buffer again as a result. .

That was necessary, he says, because he kept almost his entire workforce (of 17 FTEs). That cost “a ridiculous amount of money”, especially because, due to circumstances, NOW received less than hoped.

A quarter of catering staff gone

The fact that Van der Staak has not fired anyone is exceptional: many catering entrepreneurs have had to do so. While there were still 424,000 employees in the catering industry before the pandemic, this was still 305,000 in February 2021, according to the UWV benefits agency.

Such as Van Asperen, van ‘t Heertje in Weesp. When she was allowed to open again in June, after the second catering lockdown, she had a crying shortage of wait staff and cooks. “The first weeks I made days from 7 am to 11 pm myself. But at a certain point that was no longer the case.” Then it temporarily closed one and later even two days a week.

But now that the catering industry has to close at 5 p.m., she is, like many colleagues, at the other end of the spectrum: relatively many people are employed for little work. “I want to keep them, in case the weather goes well. But that is not possible without NOW.” On Friday it was announced that the support schemes will be extended until the New Year.

The Tolhuistuin in Amsterdam was also difficult to find people this summer. The capacity was reduced from 210 to 160 tables. Vermaas says he would like to keep the staff he now has. Even when there is little work. “We can train people in beer tapping, we can give wine courses.”

Emile van der Staak also tries to keep himself and his staff busy. There is always something for chefs to do, he says. But not for wait staff. “You can’t paint the wall again.”

But whatever happens, he knows one thing for sure: he won’t start with take-away. “We make something with a lot of attention. There’s a thought behind it. Putting something in a box does violence to our idea.”

‘I’m really not going to order game for Christmas’
Source link ‘I’m really not going to order game for Christmas’

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