Olivier Bertrand, one of France’s biggest restaurant owners has asked the government for assistance to ensure the sector doesn’t collapse. Bertrand owns over 850 eateries across France, ranging from Burger King to high-class brasseries such as Bofinger and Lipp in Paris.
In an interview with BFM TV, Bertrand said that if French restaurants had to reopen tomorrow it would lead to the collapse of the sector and the entire food ecosystem that supports it. He added that customers aren’t looking for a culinary experience which has a waitress in a safety visor and plexiglass between each table.
Bertrand has called on the government to introduce a package to help the industry, similar to the recent €18 package introduced to help the tourist sector. He has asked for four things:
- That restaurants shouldn’t have to pay rent and property charges while they are closed.
- That as restaurants open, they should begin paying rent and charges on an incremental basis until they are operating at full capacity.
- That the government should keep its system of chomage partiel in place until the end of 2020 (where the government supplements up to 84% of normal incomes for people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic).
- That VAT should be reduced from 10% to 5.5%.
Bloomberg reported that the French restaurant industry currently counts more than 1 million people unemployed with the shutdown causing a loss of 13 billion euros ($14 billion) in sales. Bertrand said that the impact is being felt by big and small players and across the agriculture, animal raising and fishing sectors.
While France has emerged from lockdown, citizens cannot travel further than 100 km (62 miles) except for specific exceptions and restaurants, cafés and bars remain closed (although many are operating take away and delivery services). The government will take a decision on May 25 to see if they can reopen on 2 June.