02-Planeta_manchette_175x100
Allegrini 2018
CRISIS COVID-19

Wine and catering: the urgency to survive is liquidity for businesses, with less bureaucracy

The reflections (and the appeal to the Government) of producers and managers of top wine & food companies, and observers from the catering world
Catering, CORONAVIRUS, PRODUCERS, WINE, WINERIES, News
Wine and catering: the urgency to survive is liquidity for businesses

Health above all, now and always. But Italian companies must be supported. Immediately. And, as soon as possible, help them start again. All. But the issue is very delicate especially for restaurants and tourism, the sectors perhaps most affected by the Coronavirus crisis, since they are practically paralyzed. Two drivers also crucial for the life of Italian wineries. It is no coincidence that wine managers and entrepreneurs, in addition to highlighting the difficulties related to the sector - such as the difficulty of bringing together the missing incomes and the costs that, however, to run the vineyard and cellar, however, must be faced - they underline that the most urgent measure is to guarantee companies liquidity so that they can stay alive and be ready for a restart. Which, especially for catering and tourism, will be ahead of time compared to other sectors, and with a narrow gauge, also for the safety rules that will require rethinking the spaces and, consequently, reducing the seats in the room but also, in many cases, the number of people present at the same time in the kitchen. Restaurants that, perhaps, will also have to think of more “Anglo-Saxon” service methods, spread over several shifts, adapting to the situation. The urgency, undeniable, however, must be conjugated, everyone says, pending the definitive publication of the “Liquidity Decree”, with the less bureaucracy, just enough to allow the huge resources (the Government speaks of 400 billion euros) arrive immediately, but to those who need it, without strange deviations or improper use. All this in a framework in which the European Union must show itself to united. Reflections, in extreme synthesis, coming from entrepreneurs and managers of some of the most important Italian wine companies, such as Renzo Cotarella, to Antinori, Matteo Lunelli, head of Ferrari and the Lunelli Group, and president of Altagamma, by Oscar Farinetti, founder of Eataly and producer with the entire Fontanafredda group (which invokes the “war debt, Dl Liquidity is a short-term loan, not an extraordinary measure”), from wine territories such as Tuscany and Marche, and great observers of the catering industry, such as Paolo Marchi, creator of “Identità Golose”.

“First of all - Matteo Lunelli says - I believe that as far as approach to wine and quality cuisine is concerned, even in this quarantine the interest of people for good flavors and good wine has been confirmed. It can be seen on social networks, how much we are talking about food and wine, how many people are trying to gratify themselves with a good dish or a good bottle of wine. It is a hopeful sign because it confirms a long-term trend in our sector, and then there is also a great desire for conviviality, even if at a distance we all seek sharing, perhaps for a toast on video call, all this makes me say that when we can return to embrace each other again we will do so with even more desire and enthusiasm than before.
Unfortunately, the catering - underlines the president of Altagamma - will not be one of the first things to restart, first there are other types of activities. The catering industry will have to restart slowly, respecting new rules, new parameters, and it’s a shame because it is certainly one of the sectors together with tourism hardest hit, and I think it is very important that Government and Europe make important reasoning. It is a sector that must be protected, and must be helped especially the SMEs to overcome this crisis, the risk is that many close and fail to open.
We risk losing something that is very important of Made in Italy, both from an economic point of view, but also as a communication and promotion lever for everything that is food and wine, and Made in Italy in general”.
On the measures implemented and those announced, according to Lunelli, “Cura Italia went in the right direction but was not adequate in terms of size and methods of intervention, while the Liquidity Dl seems more significant if the figures are confirmed. Now it is essential that the State guarantees the banks, and that the banks guarantee liquidity to businesses and trade, otherwise many companies will suffocate, without a turnover for months can not survive. It is important, it is the way to save companies and supply chains. We, with Ferrari and Tenute Lunelli, have a great company for the world of wine, it is solid and we think we can face this storm, but we must save the supply chain. Downstream, therefore, I am thinking of restaurants, wine bars, and upstream, that is, suppliers and customers, and I am proud as an entrepreneur to say that we have already honored all the payments in March, also out of a sense of responsibility, given that we have broad shoulders. But the supply chain struggles objectively. It’s a difficult situation, this government decree helps to facilitate exchanges and it's fundamental, but then we’ll need more structural reasoning, even initiatives that reconstruct exports, communication, and growth”.
Many, however, point out that the limit of 25,000 euros for loans without investigation guaranteed by the State, as well as the repayment times over 6 years, make the measure not very useful. “We will see the final text of the measure, now we need liquidity to arrive quickly to companies, minimizing the bureaucracy to provide loans. But some rule of discernment is needed, because otherwise there is a risk that this great liquidity will end up not only to those who need it and must be helped. But, in any case, strong intervention on families and businesses is needed: if businesses and companies close down, there are fewer jobs, less consumption and, in a negative impact, less revenue for public finances, and this is why many governments are oriented to high-impact maneuvers. Even in a country like ours that already has a very significant public debt, which will increase. At this time, as many people say, there is also a European Union that must be united, and relaunch the European dream, with a sense of solidarity and cohesion between states”.
In the same line of thought, Renzo Cotarella, at Antinori, the biggest private reality of Italian wine, also said: “it is more difficult than ever to imagine the future and understand how to overcome this situation. If there are 400 billion dollars on the plate of Dl Liquidity, 20-25% of our GDP, it is an impressive sum, proportionally more than the 2,000 billion dollars that the USA has put in, for example. But Italy certainly needs a drastic measures in terms of economy, but also in terms of organization. Our system is too complex to be functional, at a time like this, but not only, in a world that is normally very fast. We need a modern State, fast in its movements, clear in the things it does, that does not have too many constraints and ties, which however have a meaning because they result from the “mala gestio” of freedom and advantages given in the past.

Italians, speaking in general, lack a bit of Calvinist approach, made of ethics and responsibility, while often, in the past as now, they try to take advantage of situations more than they should. But everything can work if there is ease, flexibility, concreteness, necessary for the measures under study to be applied quickly, such as those to give liquidity to companies.
One of our American importers told us that in the USA the state gave money to companies, through banks, up to a maximum of 2.5 times the net salary of employees. With a sort of pact. If with that money you don’t lay off and pay wages, I turn it into a grant and you don’t pay it back, if you use it for other things it's a loan and you give it back to me, to make it as simple as possible. It’s an example, the sense is that if we don’t remove a lot of bureaucracy, now in an emergency, as in the ordinary, bureaucracy will kill people. Bureaucracy has crazy costs, as it is now a monster. It is necessary, but in the right measure. And then we need a Europe that is really united”.
Much more tranchant about the measures announced by the government, however, is Oscar Farinetti: “We entrepreneurs - he explains to WineNews - are used to doing charity, not asking for it, and so we are always embarrassed in these situations, we are not the kind of people to mess up. However, clear things have to be said. This decree is a loan, and even short-term, with fairly high interest rates, because some companies in negotiations are able to come up with rates better than 2%, which is only for those guaranteed by Sace. To present this manoeuvre as “extraordinary” is embarrassing, it means not understanding, not knowing what a company is. When they talked about 400 billion euros I said I was very happy, then when I read the text I was amazed, indeed it is dangerous, destabilizing. Taxes are postponed for a few months, it is no use. It is a draft, fortunately, it needs to be changed. There are a lot of entrepreneurs who demand an injection of liquidity without constraints, but on this I do not agree, you risk giving it to those who do not deserve it by making a mess.
Let us take a debt, let us take a truly extraordinary measure, a “war debt” that will cost nothing because 90% of companies will pay it back. Let’s do it at least at 20 years, if you can't do it at 30, maybe for the first 6 years without interest. To be granted with a self-certification to disburse money immediately, then the Inland Revenue will check, today it is easy to cross the data, and whoever has done the clever stolen go to jail, but in the meantime we act. And in the meantime, let’s speed up the tools already put in place: still today the money from the unemployment insurance fund, the 600 euro for professionals, has not arrived. Let’s get moving. The worrying thing is that in this government there is no perceived culture of enterprise, which is the foundation of Italy, 5 million entrepreneurs who create work. So without pitchforks, without noise, we are asking for urgent measures, with dignity, and we put the business at the center”.
If this is the voice that is raised by large companies, to make them understand how much the urgency of liquidity and action is something common and shared, come also the voices of the territories, or rather the Regions. Even from very different realities, such as Tuscany, a land of great wines that have been established for years all over the world, or the Marche region, one of the leading wine-producing countries in recent years. Speaking on behalf of all the wine consortia in Tuscany (where the value of wine production is estimated at 1 billion euros) was Francesco Mazzei, at the head of the association that groups them, Avito: “the Cura Italia decree and the latest liquidity decree on paper are positive but must have the terms of urgency - both in terms of procedures and in terms of resources - to allow our companies to overcome this moment. Tuscan wineries, without the indispensable income guaranteed by wine sales and reception activities, are already facing a strong liquidity crisis, putting at risk not only their balance sheets, but also and above all their survival”. Obviously, there is a lack of income, but the expenses to run the vineyard and winery activities, which cannot be stopped, remain.
And now, the cry of alarm also comes from the Istituto Marchigiano Vini, led by Alberto Mazzoni, which brings together the wine denominations of the Region (15 Doc and 5 Docg), of Marche wine, for a sector that today has a turnover of 150 million euros, almost 12,500 companies and 17. 000 hectares of vineyards at a regional level): “To the almost total block of sales - especially for small businesses the drop is up to 90% - is added an increasingly evident financial tension - explains the Institute - for a sector that needs to work the fields and at the same time is unable to collect even the previous payments. We need a financial shock that goes well beyond the 6-year loans announced by the government, which risk weighing down an already very critical financial position of companies with a further burden, to be paid off in too short a time”.
For Imt director Alberto Mazzoni, “we are witnessing a symmetrical shock to the national economy, with the wine sector in the Marche region paying a high price more than others. In the grid of departures it is clear that our sector will be positioned in the queue, like its main partner channels such as catering and tourism, but there is a desire to react with as many shock measures to be taken together with the Region. In order to respond to this economic earthquake - continued the director of the Consortium - we are in fact studying a promotional campaign for the entire food system in the Marche region, which is worth 2 billion euros a year and counts on 43,000 companies. The activation of Psr funds in favor of the campaign could allow us to do a flag promotion only hoped for so far, while today with the emergency there is the awareness that we can achieve a decisive acceleration for the future. At this time it is imperative to safeguard the value of the product and the companies, but at the same time we will work with special initiatives to try to differentiate and evolve the marketing and sales channels as much as possible. A communicative and commercial mix that moves more and more from digital, from direct sales, from the affirmation of the Marche brand on national and international scenarios”.
But to restart Italian wine, at least at a national level, as many have said, it will be essential to restart a catering business which, as said, will be among the last sectors to restart, also because of the health safety regulations which will have to be observed for some time. “It will be tough - explains to WineNews the creator of “Identità Golose” Paolo Marchi - at the beginning we will have to rethink spaces, which will have to be wider, which means less covered. But also the work in the kitchen, because in order to respect distances and regulations, there will be fewer people. So, for example, even Italian restaurants, where lunch is lunch and dinner is dinner, and almost nowhere do the service shifts as in the U.S. or England, will have to adapt, rethinking the service on more shifts. But the most difficult thing to overcome, in my opinion, will be the fear of people, to make people, who even once given the go-ahead, will probably be afraid of large gatherings or of being very much in favor of people I don’t know, to return to restaurants. We’ll see. What is certain is that the economic impact will be very strong, if we also think of the induced activities that tourism has in the restaurant industry, which is practically stationary. I am thinking of starred restaurants, for example: today in Italy there are 370 of them, many of them are in hotels which, probably, being substantially empty, in the short term they will no longer be able to afford them. I wouldn’t be surprised, and I obviously hope I’m wrong, if from now until the next edition of the Michelin Guide, many of them will disappear”.

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