“In catering, we are afraid of being left in the middle of the ford”

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The cross : With other professional organizations in the hotel and catering industry, you sign a manifesto where you appeal to the State, local communities, donors … What message do you want to get across?

Laurent Fréchet: Since the beginning of the crisis, our various organizations, such as the National Group of Hotel & Restaurant Self-Employed (GNI), of which I chair the restaurant branch, the Umih (union of hotel trades and industries), restaurants associations, etc. put our disputes aside and work in perfect harmony with the Ministry of the Economy or the Élysée. This collective brings together nearly 120,000 bosses, 400,000 employees with, behind these jobs, families to save.

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The government and local authorities, in conjunction with BpiFrance, the public investment bank, have already done a lot, but we fear that this is not yet enough to get through the crisis. We are afraid to stay in the middle of the ford.

The government has just clarified the framework for the exemption from social charges in the hotel and restaurant industry. Is it sufficient ?

L. F.: The government has responded well and supported businesses more than in many other countries, but we remain concerned for the months to come. If we reopened in mid-June, it would only be three months closed. But the following months will be more difficult. An establishment that has only 25% of activity, must pay employees despite everything, which can represent 40% of the usual payroll.

International customers, but also French customers who fear public transport, will not be back soon. We do not know what the behavior of the consumer will be, and the cash flow of many establishments is exhausted. For five years, we have endured attacks, yellow vests, strikes. We have a strong mind, but the stress is still there.

How can local communities help you?

LF: By being united. In a very large majority, it is the municipalities that collect the right of way for a terrace on the road. We would like to extend these spaces a little to increase our reception capacities while respecting social distancing, without hindering the passage and by taking care not to create new nuisances.

We hope for tolerance from the municipal police. Many mayors will support us. In Toulouse an agreement was reached, Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, “agrees in principle”. Many neighbors of our establishments will be accommodating. I asked François Baroin, president of the association of the mayors of France, of which I hope a favorable answer which could have a multiplier effect.

What other actors are you asking for help with?

LF: To donors. The federations of large donors call very largely for solidarity but, on the ground, only 6% of our establishments have had the agreement of their lessor for a total or partial suspension of their rent during the closure, many could do more.

We look on a case by case basis. For example, the GNI supported the idea that small donors could benefit from the state-guaranteed loan or the credit carry-over for six months, or a year. We do not wish to transfer our problems to another actor, but to be part of an ecosystem united with our suppliers, our donors. We could ask those who supply us by phone, energy, in the form of a subscription, offer discounts for the closing months.

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Finally, I find that the insurers have missed the momentum of solidarity. This will leave traces. Many could leave them to migrate to mutual insurers, who have taken the lead to help their members without being forced to do so.

Is there a particular type of establishment that you fear even more?

LF: No. The crisis is affecting Michelin-starred restaurants whose managers have asked the guide’s publisher to temporarily “suspend” their stars to offer barbecues, burgers and a wine bar. This is the case, for example, of Yoann Conte, at the Maison de Marc Veyrat, in Veyrier du lac, near Annecy.

On the other side of the spectrum, the owners of bistros and breweries fear a bill that would impose an area per customer of four square meters per customer, in establishments where the average usually turns a little less than a square meter …



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