“I only open two nights a week to reduce costs”
With the Covid-19 pandemic increasingly distant in time, the hotel and restaurant sector had pinned many of its hopes of recovery on this year 2022. The problem is that these businessmen did not count on a war that, since last February 24 –the date on which Russia invaded Ukraine-, it has unleashed a global economic crisis that, to this day, it is not known how long it may last.
With unleashed inflation and the continuous increase in the prices of energy, supplies and many foods, hoteliers and restaurateurs are beginning to feel the pressure on their businesses, with the consequences that this may entail, such as rising prices in their letters and menus, reduction of hours and days of service and, in the worst case, the definitive lowering of many blinds.
Manel Barroso, owner of the Bon Profit restaurant, had it clear a few months ago. “When things started to get worse due to the increase in electricity prices, costs, etc. I decided to open only two nights a week to cut costs”, explains this veteran restaurateur from Reus. The change was quite radical since it went from opening every night of the week -except Wednesday because it is the day of rest- to doing so only on weekends.
But even so, Manel Barroso has not managed to lower the electricity bill for his restaurant much. “Even opening only two nights, I still pay twice as much as before the crisis. If you used to pay between 500 and 600 euros for electricity, now it's between 1,200 and 1,300", laments the owner of the Bon Profit, who also does not forget that "the rise in supply costs is also drowning us. Prices have been put at shameful levels. To give an example, a pot of duck confit cost me 34 euros, when now I pay 65 for it».
Although this restaurateur is clear that “I cannot affect this increase directly on the menu, because people would stop coming, in the end I will have to raise the prices somewhat. Meanwhile, it's about getting by earning less ».
The sector admits that it is tired and warns that many businesses will have to close
Francesc Pintado, president of the Federation of Associations of Hospitality Companies of the Province of Tarragona (AEHT), recalls that "this price increase in energy consumption in our establishments is fundamental in the form of climate, cameras, freezers, ovens, fryers, griddles, etc. We are talking about increases of between double and triple that cannot be reflected in the sales tickets and therefore we eat them in the direct margins ».
For this reason, Pintado is clear that «we continue with a sieve, a cleaning of the restoration offer. The company that was fair cannot bear this increase in costs, especially that of energy. This will cause the offer to decrease. Many businesses, before they die, we see how they further limit their opening hours to what they consider to be profitable. It is the ingenuity to look for the last of the solutions».
Rafael Olivier, vice president of restoration of the AEHT, acknowledges that "the cost that we have to assume with the increase in the price of energy is so brutal that it is costing us to move forward." Olivier explains his own experience. “I have had a very good season in terms of sales, but when it comes to taking stock you are left quite frustrated by the excessive payments you have to make,” explains this businessman, who recalls that “there are businesses that have gone from paying between 800 or 1,000 euros of electricity to pay more than 2,000. This weighs on the economy and the company's balance sheet."
For all these reasons, Olivier confirms that «obviously, hoteliers and restaurateurs are looking at the costs and open just enough, when they think there are more people. This has been noticed in Tarragona. For example, last Monday -Tots Sants bridge- many restaurants in Tarragona did not open.
The vice president of the AEHT concludes that “people are a bit tired. Because you work, work, work... and you seem a bit like a slave. You work for the system: to pay. And still thank you that we can work ».
Edu Álvarez, as president of the Gremi d'Hostaleria del Baix Penedès, warns that «hopefully the only problem that restaurateurs would have today was the increase in the price of energy. It is true that this increase is disproportionate (I have gone from paying bills of 1,700 euros to paying 4,200 this September), but the big problem is the increase in costs in general, which we cannot fully pass on to the client, because it would stop to come". Álvarez uses the same as an example: «In the last balance of September 30, my expenses in supplies had risen 25% compared to last year»
Jorge Piera, president of the Associació Empresaris d'Hostaleria Baix Gaià, is clear that «the increase in the price of energy affects us. In the operating account, each month, you quietly pay twice as much as before. The only thing is that in places with positive results you stop winning. In winter it's another story, because we don't have summer billing either, we also close more hours and pay less. This means that those that are going well are more reinforced and continue, but those that are going poorly can be an excuse to close.
Hotels also affected
As is logical, the increase in the price of energy is also punishing the hotel sector. Magí Mallorquí, president of the AEHT hotel association, explains that «this has been a very favorable year, with fairly high occupancies and two strong summer months, July and August. But we must bear in mind that, making a comparison, in August 2019 we consumed 79,000 kilowatts of electrical energy, for which we paid 8,800 euros. This August we have consumed 71,000 kilowatts and we have paid 32,500 euros. It is true that, having more occupation, we have had more benefit, but what we have done is share this benefit with the electric companies ».