“And how is the chain of restaurants and cafés?
So began my conversation with Helmut, whom I had never met before. We were sharing a table at a forum and had just introduced ourselves.
The pandemic is a very interesting topic for business discussions these days.
And it is clear that the pandemic has affected us all. In diverse ways and with greater or lesser impact, but it has certainly affected us.
If we are lucky that we have not been affected by the health part and, consequently, the most human part, then we can move on to the professional part.
It doesn’t matter if you are an employee or an entrepreneur. Life is no longer the same.
Not everyone has done badly.
There are those who have taken advantage of the changes in needs and have grown.
There are those who have hibernated waiting for better times.
And there are those who, seeing the changes that were coming, have reinvented themselves out of necessity or vision.
Helmut explains to me that the most delicate part of their recent history was derived from the recent opening of new premises in a privileged location in the city. An emblematic building protected by Heritage that required a very important investment. And shortly after its opening, the worst of times came. Once the investment was made, there was no turning back.
Waiting for better times was not an easy decision.
Even after the investment was made, the recurring costs were especially important.
The rent for such special premises, which must be paid month by month, is not cheap at all. Not even if it is negotiated.
And that added to the salaries of many people who lived off the business and who, even with the official aid derived from ERTE, meant an exceedingly high cost when the business was not generating money.
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So, the option, faced with so much uncertainty, in his case was to close some premises and focus on those that were more established.
For example, in the restaurant world, dark kitchens have taken advantage of the changes resulting from not being able to go out to eat.
Although it may seem dark and gloomy, dark kitchens, also known as ghost kitchens, are totally legal. They are restaurant kitchens dedicated solely and exclusively to serving food at home. They are restaurants without tables, without a bar, without waiters, but with delivery men.
Among other things, dark kitchens, as they do not have to serve the public personally, do not need to be located in a street that is easily accessible to customers. What they do need is to be located in a place that is easily accessible to delivery drivers and close to their customers in order to be able to make deliveries quickly.
This has also created controversy when industrial kitchens are set up in ordinary flats, creating a nuisance for neighbors. Some local councils have already had to take action.
It doesn’t matter if it is a traditional business that, assuming that things are more or less the same every year as the previous one, is now facing a field of uncertainty. It is now much more difficult to make decisions, especially about large investments.
It doesn’t matter if it is a newly created business that takes advantage of changes in consumption and enters new terrain, sometimes little explored, and that doesn’t know if its customers will return to their old habits in a few months or if the Public Administrations will start to regulate when all the investment has been made with the current regulations.
As I said, the pandemic has affected us all.
Basically, we now must act in a field of much more uncertainty.
You can be adventurous and go for the new opportunity.
Or you can decide to wait until we have a new normal, be it the old one or a future one, but one that allows you to make decisions in a more reliable way.
There are bound to be rights and wrongs in both cases.
Which strategy do you choose?
By the way: when will we know if we have reached a “normality”?