Covid restrictions placed on eateries the world over have undoubtedly put some businesses in a tight spot. Stephen Lowe asks how much blame can be placed on the establishments themselves.
Hear about the restaurant called karma?
There is no menu: You get what you deserve!
Can we just clarify, right from the off, that I am in no way suggesting that even one business (here in Luxembourg, or in the wider area which we call Earth) 'deserves' to go under, but are some food joints halfway responsible for riding this Covid-19 sh*tstorm?
Again, this is not my question, I am, as has become a constant crutch in penning (nee typing) these 'think, thunk, thought' pieces out, referring to a number of comments below the line on a recent article which we had placed online.
Among a number of articles, across many of Luxembourg's media outlets, there are dozens of reports detailing the very real fear that is present in the catering industry. Just how long can a restaurant or bar survive in this economic climate?
Though all sectors are suffering, currently (though one may argue that a permanent fixture in business headlines relating to taxation, is positively thriving), the catering industry is perhaps being hit the hardest.
You can head to supermarkets and get your necessaries. You can go to shops and buy your favoured brands. Or you can hop online, point and click and have what you need in 2-3 working days, or faster if you have paid for premium delivery services.
You can't, so far (though with giant leaps in technology making the reality closer), download a brilliant meal out with four or more friends from different houses. Though this comes close.
Masticating on a Zoom call (steady) just isn't the same thing.
Luxembourg is not short of restaurants and one could argue that these were competing for a limited number of covers even before the Covid measures came into place.
With that in mind, what does a restaurant have to do to maintain decent standards and stay in the black?
Following the government guidelines is far from easy, as they change more often than the scouring pads in the kitchens. (click here for the customers' responsibilities)
Limited hours, limited staff, fewer patrons, much less turnover, vastly reduced profit. It's hardly rocket surgery.
It's like trying to pull the table cloth off a dressed table without spilling the disinfectant in the Bouillabaisse and all while not forgetting to wear your mask and gloves.
But if your standards were low beforehand, and the number of customers were tardy at the outset, simply offering takeaway and delivery isn't going to pull on the loyalty threads. Especially when the public are slightly more fearful of venturing out for the plat du jour.
If you've seen one edition of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmare's then you'll know that sometimes the not knowing is miles better than the horror of peeking behind the curtain.
But, then there is no accounting for taste. This was evidenced when a huge tailback snaked around Foetz after a fast food restaurant opened the drive-thru.
Is it, then, as simple as saying, 'your service was crap, your food was average, and I don't care?', because it shouldn't be.
A simple scroll through the socials sees myriad postings from restaurateurs and bar owners trying their damndest to keep afloat. They are literally spinning plates in efforts to give you fine food and decent service. They are trying this in trying times all while wondering what bureaucratic hoop will be thrown at them next. They have far more to worry about than if there was one less Gambas served up now than there was in January.
In the little Hamlet in which I currently live, there is but one family-owned guesthouse, I do not wish to do them a disservice by stating certain issues they have faced nor do I want to virtue signal with a 'we still order from there' (though we do, and I guess I just did).
Point is, theirs is a business with history, with blood, sweat, tears poured in. The owners are heartbroken and terrified of what the future may bring. Or, indeed, if one of the guests refuses to wear a mask.
Or, heaven forbid, a case is traced back to their premises.
But when you can see the effect of Covid happening, no more than 300 metres from your front door, it is eye-opening.
I am lucky, in that my employment has thus far remained constant. There have been moments where things got dicey, but that's for another time...another piece.
I have a number of close friends who own bars and restaurants, none of them felt comfortable in talking about their futures, or how effective the government's measures have been.
I for one hope that when all is said and done and we are able to get back to what will be a redefined version of normal, that those who have felt the pinch have pulled their socks up, rolled up the sleeves and planned for a future that can throw anything at you.
For that to happen, they will need your support. Perhaps, even if only once a week, should you be able to afford it, order a take out from a restaurant near you.
Maybe leave a review on a site aggregator platform. Or on the socials.
Better still, tell all your friends about that wonderful place you used to visit and their terrific home delivery.
It may, just may, save someone's livelihood.