Just imagine: windows in darkness, empty seats and closed kitchens. This is the only scene presented of the restaurant sector at the end of 2020, a year when Covid-19 has left its mark. But it isn't only chefs, waiters and restaurateurs who are bearing the brunt of this. It has affected an entire supply chain, which also includes florists, cleaners, photographers and social media managers, who have all become involved in the restaurant business in recent years.
According to Coldiretti's assessment of the Ismea data processed in October, in 2020 the restaurant sector posted losses of EUR 41 billion, equivalent to a 48% reduction in total turnover. And with the restrictions imposed, which vary from one region to the next, these losses might get even worse. Bringing with it a whole army of waiters, chefs and suppliers of fresh produce and services in its wake. Including marketing companies and social networks.
The latest government relief package has provided aid to the sector, to the tune of EUR 645 million. This takes the form of a non-repayable cash grant, which is intended to support operators in the economic sectors affected by the new lockdown measures. In specific terms, EUR 445 million will be provided in 2020 and EUR 190 million in 2021. The grant is payable to the self-employed, who have already benefited from the relief aid provided for under the recovery decree for an amount equal to that obtained in May and not exceeding EUR 150,000. All grants are paid to the beneficiaries by the Italian Revenue Agency into their current account.
There are still doubts about how the extended restaurant supply chain will fare. On the one hand, the agri-food sector is withstanding the impact thanks to the good performance of large-scale distribution, which is partly offsetting the loss of turnover from the restaurant and catering sector (which has seen an 80% drop in the number of orders compared to 2019). On the other hand, the sector is facing the risk of losing the skills that are known for promoting the restaurant business.
A restaurant is made up of not just chefs, waiters and managers, but also of suppliers, photographer, social media managers, consultants and florists.
There is a lot more to a restaurant than its owner, manager or staff. There are also the "invisible" people, as mentioned by Aldo Palaoro on the Linkiesta journalism website, working behind the scenes, who include detergent or stationery suppliers, printers, photographers and communication consultants, caterers, florists and cleaners. Not forgetting either taxi drivers and food critics. The restaurant supply chain is a long one. And especially in recent years, the food sector has seen a steady rise in the range of different and specialised skills available.
There is also something in the package for seasonal workers. At the end of October and November, the relief package decrees offered a bonus of EUR 1,000 for those who lost their jobs during the summer months.
And a few more steps seem to have been taken also for professionals operating in this sector, with the "chef bonus". An amendment to the Budget Law proposed by Maria Spena, a Forza Italia MP, provides for a tax credit for professional chefs, both employed and self-employed, which can be up to EUR 6,000. The tax credit can be used to purchase durable capital goods and for attending professional refresher courses, "strictly related to exercising their profession" between 1 January and 30 June 2021. After all, even the restaurant sector will need to reinvent itself after the shock impact of the pandemic.