How have restaurants survived this pandemic year? Through surveys and interviews with popular restaurant owners, we were able to get a better understanding on how they managed to work through the difficult year of 2020, how they are remaining positive for 2021 and what we as consumers can look forward to.
This past year, we have all missed going to our favorite restaurants to enjoy delicious meals and a fun atmosphere. We reached out to numerous restaurant owners all over Switzerland such as the Volkshaus Basel, Lucha Libre in Lausanne, Ferdinand in Zermatt and many more, to be able to provide insights regarding what they have been doing during these abnormal months and how they prepared for the reopening. Additionally, we investigated what the future holds for them, and more importantly, we established how consumers can help them recover quickly now that they are open again.
First repercussions of Covid-19
Looking back over the last year, restaurant owners have had to deal with full closure, align with new rules and regulations, adjust to the takeaway and delivery business and handle a lot of financial uncertainty and unpredictability. From the end of December 2020 until spring 2021, all Swiss restaurants had to remain closed, and the hard truth is that some of them were not able to reopen due to financial issues.
Besides the financial uncertainty, another issue raised by the restaurateurs was that they will be understaffed for the reopening as 44% of them were forced to let some of their employees go and cannot afford to rehire. Despite this dire outlook, the majority of the surveyees felt optimistic that their business will survive. The majority of them (70%) have managed to keep their business running by reinvesting their savings as well as government aids, and only a few (30%) had to reach out to external parties in order to receive a loan.
Were the federal compensations sufficient for F&B businesses?
Discussing federal compensation and how the government manoeuvred the crisis, there was a wide range of responses and opinions from the restaurateurs. In the graph below, you can see how content the surveyed were with the government's decisions.
When digging deeper and asking about the pain points of last year, most responses involved the speed, or better stated the tardiness of paying out the financial aid as well as the unclear communication and lack of structure throughout the pandemic. Some restaurateurs also had a different perspective and did not feel they were in a position to judge the decisions.
The respondents felt that the situation could have been made easier for restaurants but realise that the government was dealing with a pandemic for the first time and had to adjust their response as the crisis evolved.
Sometimes it felt like the government was pushed into a corner and decided things they were not sure about because it just had to be done fast. However, it’s not my job to judge their decisions. My job is to make the best out of the situation. - Timo Läderach, Restaurant Manager at Hotel Murten
Swiss restaurants showing resillience during uncertainty
Many restaurants tried to make the best out of the situation during the time they were forced to close. Almost all of the restaurants underwent deep cleaning, renovations and refurbishments. A large number focused on their takeaway and delivery business and modified their menu accordingly. Some restaurants also went a step further and took it upon themselves to try new dishes, develop their concept, restructure and rethink their processes.
Philippe Heim, an EHL Alumni and now managing director of the Café des Philosophes in Lausanne, used the time to refurbish the basement of his restaurant to make it into a speakeasy event location which will allow for a new revenue stream. Furthermore, he took on the challenge to update and adapt the service process to make it more efficient through digital tools and applications while maintaining a high level of personalization and quality as a business cornerstone.
Philippe Heim, EHL Alumni and Managing Director of the Café Des Philosophes, Lausanne
What does the future hold for F&B in a post Covid world?
Looking ahead to a post-Covid future, the restaurant owners and employees are positive and confident that the industry will recover swiftly. Philippe Heim, summarised his future outlook in one sentence: “We have to be more clever and work on the spur of the moment!”, and what this means for the restaurant is adapting the offer, serving the right customer at the right time, while having quality at the core of the restaurant.
The key question is now how the consumer can help restaurants recover quickly. The restaurateurs think that the crisis could also be beneficial for the Swiss restaurant industry as it has created more space for innovation and new entrants in the Swiss landscape. Nonetheless, to ensure a rapid recovery and survival of our favourite restaurants it is important that we redirect a large part of our spending away from online and grocery shopping and towards the small and local businesses that suffered under the restrictions. By making these changes we can ensure the survival of these important assets in our local community.