On May 19, 2021, one day for the day, food establishments reopened their doors after seven months of waiting. In Toulouse, for these restaurants, the results of recent months are mixed in the city center.
Jagged balance sheet, drop in attendance, price increase… Toulouse restaurateurs are raising their post-covid assessment. Since the reopening on May 19, 2021, some have tried to survive, others have survived. Philippe Belot, departmental vice-president of the Union des métiers et des industries de l’hôtellerie, the first trade union in the profession, accounts “19 bankruptcy filings since January 2022. That’s 45% more than last year. And it’s far from over.
“Our balance sheet is catastrophic”
Professionals do not hide their pessimism as the summer season approaches. This is the case of Dimitri Pipard, head of the Pizza Pino pizzeria, who has no words to explain his situation. “Catastrophic. The number of covers has been reduced by half, going from 1200 to 500 currently”. Being located next to the Pierre Goudouli garden, where thousands of pedestrians circulate every day, does not change anything. “Since the crisis, the habits of some customers have changed. They come more rarely. The continuous demonstrations on Saturdays do not help the situation. Customers who come to the terrace constantly see the demonstrators, ”he admits. In view of the current situation and the increase in prices, Dimitri Pipard expects to live through the next few difficult weeks. Especially with soaring prices.
France’s annual inflation rate stood at 4.2% in February 2022 according to Eurostat. A figure that affects restaurants. “Before, we offered an all-you-can-eat buffet for the lunch formula, but with the increase in the price of raw materials such as wheat and health rules, we had to stop. The same goes for duck breast because the avian flu is causing shortages,” admits Ilyas Hamyani, manager of the Bistroquet à la Une, rue Labeda. An opinion shared by Dimitri Pipard. “Oil and dairy products are products that we use all the time and prices are soaring. The oil went from 7.50 to 20 euros in the space of a few months”. With a 300% increase since January 1, 2022 of certain materials such as oil, bills are getting bigger for restaurateurs.
Raising prices to limit losses, a hesitant choice
As a bulwark against inflation, the prices on the menu card increase discreetly before the eyes of customers. “The conflict in Ukraine is forcing us to review the prices we apply to some of our starters and main courses. To compensate for inflation, on a price increased our prices by 1 euro, but not on the whole map”, explains Ilyas Hamyani. The hundreds of covers per day allow the manager of the “Bistroquet à la Une” to cover his expenses at the end of the month. A vision shared by Philippe Belot, vice-president of the UMIH in Haute-Garonne. “To cope with inflation, the prices on the cards would have to increase by at least 20%. If the restaurateurs put this in place, the customers may no longer come. It’s a double-edged sword”.
A stone’s throw from the Capitol, place Saint-Georges, Christophe Meyer, manager since 2019 of Monsieur Georges, Mamma Giorgia and La Cabane de Monsieur Georges, nevertheless displays his smile. “The record is good. People are happy to be able to come back to the restaurant,” he says, aware that the weather plays an important role. “The fine weather allows us to fill the terraces. It is an additional advantage”. In full preparation for the lunch service, Christophe Meyer wanted to compare the figures recorded before the health crisis in 2020 and those of today. “Attendance has not changed during the week. With the approach of the weekend on the same trend to see our figures on the rise. For example, on Saturdays, we make 1,300 covers,” he adds. The restaurateur admits, however, that he had to adapt his offer in the face of inflation: ‘I decided to do without a product that appeared on our menus, namely foie gras. With a price of €55 per kilo, my decision-making did not last long”.
These uncertainties and variations should continue in the coming months according to Philippe Belot. The vice-president of Umih recalls that restaurateurs must also start repaying the State-guaranteed loan, the government assistance granted during the health crisis.