Allegrini 2018

All catering closed at 6 pm. Reactions and concerns in Italian catering and agriculture

Chefs express opinions to WineNews (Cristina Bowerman, Enrico Bartolini, Chicco Cerea). The positions of organizations
Catering, CHEF, CHICCO CEREA, closing, CRISTINA BOWERMAN, ENRICO BARTOLINI, Ministerial Decree, News
Catering against the Ministerial Decree, which requires everyone to close at 6 pm

There is deep concern for the additional economic impact of the newest Ministerial Decree, but there is also a feeling of discouragement due to the already strict measures that are suddenly changed, and which affect those who have complied with the rules, which are the majority, as well as those who have not. The measures seem to indiscriminately hit everyone, where protocols have been observed and where there are no obvious contingent critical health situations. Moreover, the measures are also dividing the government, as various representatives have criticized them. The fact is that starting October 26th, at 6:00 pm, doors will close for everyone: cafés, pubs, restaurants (except for those in hotels and those along toll roads and highways), pastry shops, and so on. The lockdown will be partial for the few locales that work at lunchtime (though their numbers are very low, due to the absence of foreign tourism, and smart working). Instead, for the majority, especially outside the cities, where they only work at dinnertime, the lockdown will be total. The Ministerial Decree has established closure on October 24th, which went into effect on October 26th. The Decree has consolidated the protests of the entire supply chain, from restaurateurs to producers of wine and raw materials, who are, of course, all aware that health is the most precious asset to be safeguarded. However, in light of the efforts the catering sector has made to adapt to security protocols, hitting everyone and everywhere will have very heavy repercussions. Furthermore, there is no certainty about the promised relief support Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced, yet to be established. Additionally, and creating even more chaos, as we mentioned, are the divisions within the Government that passed the measures. The words of the Deputy Minister of Health, Pierpaolo Sileri, who spoke on the Italian television show, “Agorà” broadcast on “Rai 3” are exemplary: “I do not fully agree, even though the decision was based on data, led by a Technical Scientific Committee (CTS). I fully agree with Professor Viola, the immunologist at University of Padua, who is convinced that it makes no sense to close at random, and instead closures should be defined on the basis of data relating to the trend of infections in the various places of aggregation. Clearly, data the CTS has”, confirmed Sileri, “should be analyzed for each type of category, transportation, gyms, restaurants, and based on the data, where there is a documented risk of contagion, closed. I have spoken with Professor Viola very often and even recently, I said that I hoped that cafés and restaurants would not close, because they, like schools, are at a low risk of contagion, if they respect the rules. I am much more worried about infections that occur in the family environment; that is the real problem”, said Sileri.
The reactions of restaurateurs and others are heading in one direction. “There are many contradictory articles in these rules”, Cristina Bowerman, president of the Ambassadors of Taste, restaurateur and entrepreneur of the one Michelin star Glass Hostaria in Rome, commented to WineNews, “it is not clear why if a restaurant is safe at lunchtime, it is not safe at dinner, or why restaurants along the highways are safe, while others are not. It is very clear instead that the economic impact will be heavy, and that some restaurateurs will invariably fail. Some of my colleagues just want to give up, not so much because of the economic issue, but because in this context, it is disheartening when the rules are changed from one moment to the next, especially after we have been asked to conform to the protocols, which we have complied with. And then, the relief support, which in this case is not a concession, but rather a right, when and how will it arrive? There are enormous delays for some measures, while for others there are regulations but there are no decrees and codes to access them, and in the meantime taxes have to be paid. So it’s tough”.
“We are discouraged and disillusioned by the Government’s decisions, which does not know how to manage the emergency”, Chicco Cerea, chef of the three-starred Da Vittorio of the Cerea family in Brusaporto, a leading name also in high-level hotels and banquets, told WineNews, “and is putting an entire fundamental sector of the Italian economy in difficulty. It is the wrong choice, I do not understand why it is that in a restaurant where 30 people can eat safely at lunchtime, instead 30 people at dinnertime is dangerous. Since May 18th when we reopened, we have adapted to the rules and the protocols, we have secured everything, and now it seems we did everything for nothing, because the Government doesn’t know how to command respect, and control those who respect the rules and those who do not. Let anyone who wants to intervene, even the Army if necessary, and those who do not respect the rules should be hit hard, but those that have made a safe work environment for their staff, helped the families of employees, and hosted customers safely, must be allowed to work. In China, where we have just received our second star, we are now back to normal. We are working more than before, we are living with Covid-19 by applying the rules, and woe to those who make mistakes. In Italy, because we are not able to enforce the rules, we lump everyone together and close everything. We will all pay dearly for these choices that, I hope you understand, but I doubt that you do, I am really bitter, and the whole category is very angry. We are contemplating what to do, in an ethical way, to make everything work. Obviously, what matters the most is health, of course, but if the people making choices are operating in this way, I'm afraid that health, too, is at risk. There will be substantial economic and social repercussions; I am thinking of many of my colleagues that have been doing their job well for years, who will be greatly challenged. We knew this second wave was coming, but have we done anything about schools and transportation? No, but lumping together all the 300.000 public businesses that have been doing their jobs up until yesterday, and bringing them to their knees is not good. It will affect those who are working well and want to keep this beautiful country going, which has never been governed adequately”.
“We will respect the rules, of course, but we also have the right to comment on them, and I don't like the fact that the whole category is considered on the same level, because at all levels there are restaurants that respect protocols and work safely, for lunch and dinner”, Enrico Bartolini, the most starred chef in Italy, starting with the three Michelin stars of the Mudec in Milan, told WineNews when they met at “Identità Golose” and the International Congress of Cuisine in Milan, which closed today, and he added, “as has already been said in the past, it is not the hour of contagion that changes the danger, but the way in which we work and how we respect the rules. I would have preferred that we had been told “you will be punished if you do not respect the rules”, but the distancing, the masks and the hygiene, as recommended, have always been respected, and therefore, this new regulation does not really convince me. I will spend the next few hours together with my team to understand what to do, as opening only for lunch could be a further, big economic damage we will receive, and therefore it is difficult to understand now how to deal with it”.
There are also those who have gone to social medias with their thoughts, such as Niko Romito of the three-starred Ristorante Reale, in Castel di Sangro. He posted on Facebook yesterday, explaining, “after lunch, today, I believe that many of my colleagues stopped and stood gazing fixedly, like me, one more moment, on the faces of their employees and their collaborators. A mixture of anger, frustration and fear caught me thinking about theirs and my future, as I saw them cleaning and making the kitchen shine, to get it ready, as always, for the dinner shift. Which will be the last supper. Yes, because this evening, Sunday, October 25, 2020, will probably be the very last dinner for many restaurants in Italy. Many of us will not have the strength to hold up under the government’s decision to close cafés and restaurants at 6pm, forcing an entire sector to relinquish, for probably an indefinite period of time, well over 50% of its turnover. The “conspicuous support” promised by the government, will not be enough for many of us to be able to tackle this second crossing through the desert in less than eight months. This decision will lever a lethal blow to Italian restaurants. Many friends, but also restaurateurs that I don't know, are currently considering what to do - stay open for just one shift and decide how to manage the workload between employees, or close? After the end of the lockdown, most of the entrepreneurs in our sector reopened and invested in procedures, protocols and tools to guarantee their customers a completely safe experience. We have done the same for our employees, including weekly control tests, precautions, and maximum attention in daily life outside the workplace. All of this was not enough to instill in public decision makers the idea that our sector could guarantee adequate safety standards. Cafés and restaurants suffer the prejudice of being places with a high risk of contagion. Factories or other places that can continue to operate to support the country’s economy are not. Not us. I do not want to criticize the decision of the Government, as I understand that it is not an easy moment and that the choices to be made can produce discontent and misunderstanding. I do not want to argue that perhaps it was better to close everything again, because in this way a partial and punitive choice appears only for some categories. I only feel the duty to share the bitterness of this moment because so many colleagues see in us starred chefs a point of reference, a model, sometimes a source of inspiration. We are disappointed, of course. At the same time, though, there is a growing desire to do our part as citizens and entrepreneurs, and as members of the community. I will do so to the best of my ability, as I have always done in these twenty years of business with my sister Cristiana. It will not be easy, but this is not the time to give in to despair. Our restaurants will remain open in compliance with the indications of the Government decree. We will continue to welcome our customers in safety and all those who, for necessity or pleasure, come to visit us”.
The words of one of the most prominent voices in the “dining room”, Vincenzo Donatiello, maître and sommelier of the Piazza Duomo in Alba by Enrico Crippa and the Ceretto family also posted on Facebook. “Never as in this moment do I feel like saying that our sector has always been one of the driving forces of our economy. A blind and deaf political class, which for decades and not only now, considers this segment of the economy superfluous. The culture and training of hospitality and catering are an essential part of a nation’s heritage. Apparently though, not our nation, though, since we so hastily handed another blow to the sector. I really hope that one day we will all look at each other and tell each other about how dark this period was, but at the same time, how much energy there was to restart”.
The voices of chefs, entrepreneurs and those on the front line, expressing positions common to all the trade organizations, catering, as well as the agricultural world and food and wine production, are asking for clarity, speed in the promised relief support, as well as revising the rules. “The presidency of FIPE/ CONFCOMMERCIO (the Italian federation of public businesses) has once again expressed perplexity and opposition to the closure of public establishments at 6pm. Regarding catering, the activity of the main service of the day has been cancelled”, emphasized the organization, “while for cafés it is a further enormous reduction for their business. This measure will cost another 2.7 billion euros to catering companies. Plus, if they are not supplemented by concurrent and proportionate economic compensation, it could be the coup de grace for Italian public businesses, which are already in a profoundly critical situation, causing very serious economic and social consequences. Their opposition to the Decree is also fomented by the knowledge that there is no connection between frequenting public businesses and the spread of infections, as scientific sources have demonstrated. As a matter of fact, infections are attributed to other factors - mobility, school system and the work world – which are the main sources of contagion. The Federation has taken note of Premier Conte’s statements relating to urgent and specific interventions in favor of the sector. While appreciating the commitment of the Government, the Federation has immediately taken action to ensure that they are economically substantial, guaranteed and immediately payable to all companies in the sector. The Federation will, in any case, be demonstrating in 21 squares in Italy on October 28th, to reconfirm the true values of the sector - economic, social, cultural and anthropological, which have been seriously challenged by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is jeopardizing the economic stability of the sector, employment (over 350.000 jobs at risk) and the future of over 50.000 companies”.
The catering sector is extremely worried about this situation. It is also distressing for the entire supply chain, from producers of raw materials and wine, especially those of the highest quality catering, where out-of-home consumption is a fundamental channel. “The situation is definitely troubling because the primary and most important outlet is the catering sector for a significant part of the products that our association represents, namely 70 Consortiums of PDO products, which are the spearhead of the national agro-food industry. We definitely support the catering Decree promoted by the Ministry of Agriculture to provide immediate relief to restaurants; but obviously, if they are closed, even this maneuver may not be enough. We understand health needs, but what is truly essential today is very rapid economic relief to a category that is absolutely decisive for our productions”, declared Cesare Baldrighi, president of Origin Italia, the association that groups together all the main Italian consortiums of PDO and IGP agro-food products. “I would also to add special attention to the large-scale distribution world. Food stores will continue to be open and will become the places of consumption for Italians in the next few weeks. Many of our productions, especially the less significant ones, from a quantity point of view, will have or may have problems in that sector. So, I would also like to pay particular attention to this type of activity”, said Baldrighi.
“Behind the restaurant industry, there is a supply chain counting almost 4.000 companies and 58.000 employees who, due to the Decree that went into effect today, will suffer further losses totaling approximately 1 billion euros. Overall, in this “annus horribilis” the distribution system in the HORECA channel will suffer over 8 billion euros lost in revenue, equal to approximately 50% of its turnover. We, too, are behind the closed doors of cafés and restaurants, and the Government cannot fail to take this into consideration in the relief plans it is drawing up. We are asking for concrete and immediate help”, said Maurizio Danese, president of GH- Wholesalers Horeca, the association that represents the main Italian food companies in the “out of home” channel, as well as company cafeterias and catering.
Agricultural organizations, instead, have a different focus on the subject. “The absolute priority is public health, but, afterwards, it is necessary to take into account the economic consequences of the new and necessary measures the government has implemented to curb the spread of infections”, said the president of Confagricoltura, Massimiliano Giansanti. “The Government measures have focused on the catering sector, adding further limitations to their activities”, he added, “which will also have an impact on sectors connected to the on-trade channel, and first of all, the agro-food sector. The adequate and speedy relief support the Government has announced must be extended to the agro-food chain and any exclusion would be incomprehensible and unjustified”, said the president of Confagricoltura. He also pointed out that non-domestic food consumption, in 2019, amounted to 85 billion euros, and according to the agro-food markets institute, ISMEA estimates, because of the health emergency, this year it will plummet to 34 billion euros. Farmhouses will obviously suffer too, emphasized CIA-Italian farmers confederation. “Closing at 6:00 pm, as the most recent Ministerial Decree measure provides, means closing down the activity of the 24.000 national agro-tourism structures. They will not be able to endure the costs of staying open with just the proceeds from lunchtime customers as that hour has a very low impact, compared to the 6:00-9:00 pm slot. Furthermore, the Government measure does not take into account guaranteeing social distancing of the spaces offered in the countryside”, pointed out CIA, “and will definitively put a sector that was struggling to recover after months of lockdown, in deeper crisis, as damages so far are estimated at 600 million euros. If we then add the foreseeable effects of the new restrictive measures to these enormous losses in market shares, we will see a catastrophic number of bankruptcies, which will have disastrous repercussions for the 100.000 workers in the sector. The Ministerial Decree will also have a very negative impact on all the farms whose only commercial outlet is the HORECA channel - restaurants, bars, cafeterias, hotels - and that will pay a very high bill, due to the reduction in supplies of fresh food to the out of home agro-food sector, in a country where about one third of consumption is away from the home”. However, the supply chain will continue to do its part, as it did during the most critical phase of the lockdown between February and May, Coldiretti points out, “over 3 million Italians who continue to work in the food supply chain, from the countryside to industries, transportation, shops and supermarkets will guarantee continuity in the supply of food and drink to the population. Food supply is guaranteed in Italy thanks to the work of 740.000 farms and stables, 70.000 food-processing companies and a widespread distribution network counting 230.000 stores including shops, supermarkets, discount stores and the Campagna Amica farmers' markets. It is a daily, non-stop commitment that”, continued Coldiretti, “has had to deal with cafés and restaurants closing, but which demonstrated its competency during the first wave of the virus supplying food on the shelves and in the pantries of families. It is, of course, necessary to avoid unnecessary lines that favor gatherings and increase the risk of the spread of the infection, but it is also unnecessary to put the supply system and the workers involved under stress. The current health emergency has invited commercial distribution to give priority to Made in Italy products on the shelves, because they will be severely affected by the restaurants closing at 6:00 pm, which has a negative, cascading effect on the national agro-food sector. The sector will lose more than one billion euros in turnover in food and drink sales during the month of restrictive measures. This drastic collapse in business weighs heavily on the sale of many agro-food products, such as wine, beer, meat, fish, fruit, vegetables but also high-quality meats and cheeses that have their major outlet market in out-of-home consumption. In some sectors, such as fish and wine, catering represents the main marketing channel for turnover. The limitations to business activities must therefore be compensated with adequate economic support for the entire supply chain, and measures such as tax exemptions extended to the next deadlines, even exceeding the state aid limit”, said Ettore Prandini, president of Coldiretti asking citizens and brokers to “adhere through tangible actions to the #MangiaItaliano mobilization campaign by favoring mozzarella cheese produced with Italian milk instead of obtained from foreign curds, cured meats made out of meat from our farms, national fruit and vegetables, and extra virgin olive oil 100% Made in Italy”.

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