Restaurants resort to home delivery to offset losses from health crisis
Uncertainty in Girona's hospitality sector raises fears that up to 20% of eateries will be forced to close down
Most of the 4,000 bars and restaurants in Catalonia's northern region of Girona have been closed for over six weeks due to the restrictions aimed at halting the spread of Covid-19.
However, a few - with more following suit - have decided to deliver food to homes, with the aim of keeping their losses down and at least covering some of their expenses.
Although the state authorities have announced a plan to de-escalate the restrictions, many businesses are threatened with permanent closure if the situation goes on much longer.
In the region's capital of Girona, for example, the local Hospitality Association fears that up to 20% of bars and restaurants in the city will not survive the crisis.
"The situation for bars, cafes, and restaurants is chaotic because most have had zero income for six weeks," says the head of the Girona Hospitality Association, Josep Carreras.
Growing minority of restaurants offer meals at home
So far, only about 20 of the city's restaurants and bars are delivering food to homes, and many of them serve pizzas or Asian food through apps like Just Eat or Uber Eats.
Yet, there are a few others that have adapted to offer home deliveries, such as the Pocavergonya Bistró, which takes orders from Tuesday to Saturday via WhatsApp.
"It depends on the day," says the owner, Sito Manzano, "at the beginning of the week it is always quieter and as the weekend gets nearer, business picks up."
While "not exactly our concept," Manzano says home delivery lets him keep in touch with customers while "covering expenses," which can be 3,000 euros a month, without bills.
L'Aliança 1919, in the nearby town of Anglès, began home deliveries two weekends ago, after owners Àlex Carrera and Cristina Feliu were forced to temporarily lay off staff.
Now it is just the two of them working at the restaurant, with Àlex doing the cooking and Cristina distributing the menus and managing the orders.
"We've simplified the menu a bit and it is simpler than usual because we also find that there are some suppliers who can't serve us," says Carrera.
They deliver food in Anglès and the surrounding area, and Carrera says that it helps to "pay the fixed expenses that a closed restaurant continues to generate."
Whatever the restaurant, the fall in business has been noted everywhere, and in the Ca La Petita pizzeria in Cassà de la Selva orders have dropped 70% since the crisis began.
The pizzeria has reduced the working hours, and owner Anna Maria Puigdemont says continuing with home deliveries is "a way of saying we are still here for our customers.”
Sector wants to know more about easing of restrictions
The announcement that the easing of restrictions is due to begin has been welcomed by the sector, although they want more details on how and when it will happen.
"For now we're waiting; we will have to see how the restrictions are applied," says the spokeswoman for the Girona Hospitality Federation, Marina Figueras.
As for Carreras at the Girona Hospitality Association, he says that one of the first things will be to find out how premises will have to be adapted to allow them to reopen.
Carreras also wants to know how the easing of restrictions will affect staff numbers, "and beyond that, it will be necessary to regain the trust of customers," he adds.
"Nothing will be the same," says Carreras, and for now both the federation and the association say that no restaurant has yet told them it will not be able to reopen.
While that is good news as far as it goes, both organizations are nevertheless assuming that in Girona at least there will be "many establishments that will close down."
"In Girona city - and I hope it's not the case - we fear that the number of closures will be between 15 and 20%," says Carreras, whose association has 140 member businesses.