food & drink

Covid times

Reactions to varying government measures affecting the restaurant business have varied from country to country, and seldom displayed conformity. Although each nation's executive assures citizens that it is guided by teams of experts, there is reluctance to identify these alleged professionals, so we are subject to streams of diktats that often have no logic or rationality. Although media headlines usually run something like, 'Why country x is handling the epidemic better than country y', justifications are never convincing. If x closes its bars at midnight and y closes them an hour earlier, is there any proof that one of these measures is better than the other? Nor is there conformity on government aid.

In France all hostelry employees were guaranteed full wages from October, making redundancies unnecessary. There are also plans to cancel social security contributions for businesses that have already suffered heavily. These measures were intended to stop planned protests but have not changed the sector's prediction that 30% of businesses are already doomed.

In Italy things are not much better. On Tuesday an emergency fund of five billion euros was approved but many restaurants and bars are already closed and beyond rescue. Germany has lowered VAT from 19 to 7% on meals, and the cost to the government is calculated at 2.7 billion euros. In Sweden landlords who lower rents by 50% to help restaurants can claim back 25% compensation from a special fund.

There was overall admiration for Britain's €12 subsidy on all restaurant meals during the first half of the week, and many eateries have been fully booked on those days.