When we walk into Spanish restaurant El Ruedo just after noon, we’re the first customers. We’re seated in their main dining room, which has noticeably fewer tables than usual due to the two-metre separation rule.
Our next observation is a lack of menus. “With the new hygiene measures, we’re not handing out menus anymore,” the owners’ son Xavier Gonzalez tells us. “Instead, we’re displaying the daily menus on chalkboards.”
Their menu offerings have been cut by more than half, as there are now fewer customers, fewer waitstaff and sourcing ingredients has become more expensive for certain products. “We used to have 20 appetizers and 30 main courses on the menu, but now we’re down to 6 of each. We’re focusing on the highest quality offerings we can provide at the moment,” Xaviers explains.
“We’ve lost over half our seating capacity by keeping two metres between each table, and lunchtime is unpredictable since our usual business lunch clientele is still working from home,” Xavier says.
When we ask Xavier about the future, he remains hopeful but is aware of the challenges. “I think our customers will definitely return, but it will take some time – hopefully by September,” he says. “But if we can’t increase our seating capacity, we’ll definitely see a financial loss. We’ve lost our outdoor terrace too, as construction is supposed to start on our street but we don’t know when because of the restrictions.”
Xavier’s family has been relatively lucky though – their landlord is a not-for-profit foundation, which will credit them for the rent they paid on the restaurant when they were closed in April. “But it’s up to each landlord whether they will charge full rent or not,” Xavier says. “So many businesses have to pay rent in full even though they were closed – but landlords have mortgages to pay as well, so it’s a difficult situation.”