What else can the restaurateurs and policymakers do to allow the food service industry to stay open permanently, even if we continue to be in the grip of the virus for some time to come?
Policymakers must ask themselves how sensible and realistic it is to keep channelling billions of euros into businesses that have had to close. This is not going to work in the long run. Plus, surveys
show that the majority of the population does not support closing restaurants. There are better solutions. A recent study by the University of the German Army in Munich examined the relevant protective effect of air filters in combination with Plexiglas panes in restaurants, offices and classrooms, and proved that they can vastly reduce the risk of direct and indirect infection. The study is right to criticise the fact that these tools are currently being neglected in terms of funding. The lack of communication from policymakers concerning the effectiveness of these tools and their failure to send positive messages to encourage greater investment are just as serious. Therefore, I believe that, instead of providing financial compensation for restaurant businesses that have been forced to close, the government should provide funds for restaurateurs so they can modernise their businesses and make them demonstrably and permanently safe for their customers and staff. This will help the industry to survive and will create trust while at the same time protecting our society against infections. This suggestion therefore constitutes an important alternative to the policy of closing businesses. In concrete terms, the government should subsidise air filters, Plexiglas panes and digitalisation in the food service industry.
How can immediate help for the food service industry be provided as long as the lockdown continues? What are the opportunities digitalisation offers?
During the coronavirus pandemic, we have noticed in many areas that this phase is acting like an accelerator of sorts for the digitalisation of processes. Where physical distance must be maintained, digital applications help businesses to stay in touch with customers. Restaurateurs are now more open to employing digital tools to boost efficiency and accelerate their businesses. Currently, a restaurant can only generate turnover via pick-up and delivery services. Those who are restricted to established delivery platforms because they have no integrated order application on their website
will lose a large portion of their profits. Depending on the individual situation, the fee for using delivery platforms is between 15% and 40% of the respective turnover. METRO is working with restaurateurs in France and Germany to develop solutions that will make them less reliant on delivery platforms. We are collaborating with various platforms in this project, which gives restaurateurs considerable reach – without forcing them to pay large fees. This example shows just how valuable digitalisation
can be for the food service industry, both now and in the future.