TESTING GENEVA’S RESTAURANTS AND CAFÉS IN THE FIRST WEEK POST-LOCKDOWN – A NEW EXPERIENCE
by Alexandra Osvàth
As restaurants slowly re-open in Geneva following the 8 week lockdown due to coronavirus, you may wonder whether it’s worth eating out and what it feels like. What is the same, and what is different when visiting restaurants and cafés?
Ready to (cautiously) take the plunge, we experience first-hand Geneva’s new café and restaurant scene.
FEELING NORMAL AGAIN…
We’ve really missed sipping on a latté on a sunny outdoor terrace. Let’s face it, having a coffee at home just isn’t the same.
Laura Weithauser greets us with a wave as we arrive at our favourite local breakfast spot after so many weeks. We sit down at one of three tables on the terrace at Tea-Room Rive Droite, noticing the distance from the next table over.
Laura, wearing a face mask, comes over to say hello and take our order. We notice a steady stream of takeaway customers, but not as many people sitting down. Biting into the first fresh croissant and pain au chocolat we’d had since lockdown began brings a welcome feeling of normalcy, but also many questions.
“Things are very different now,” Laura tells us. “Because we’re keeping two metres between each table outside and inside, it’s reduced our capacity by more than half.”
Complying with the new restrictive hygiene measures has also taken a hit on the menu. “I now offer only items that don’t require much handling, which lowers any risks,” she says.
Laura is still waiting to receive financial aid from the Swiss government to help cover the months she had to close her business. She hopes to have her rent reduced, but it hasn’t been confirmed.
“I think it could take a few years for businesses to fully recover, and you don’t even know if you’ll still be here in a few years,” she says. “We’ve never experienced anything like this, so the future is very uncertain.”
“I haven’t had a salary during this time, like many other people, so it’s been difficult. We have to make sacrifices but also try to stay positive.”
FEWER SEATS, REDUCED MENU
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.”
Overall, we felt very comfortable at both establishments. With strict hygiene measures in place including distancing between tables, and our fellow customers respecting the new restrictions too, we could relax and enjoy ourselves. A worthwhile experience that keeps great places in business!
LET’S SUPPORT THEM.
Tea-Room Rive Droite
Rue Jean-Charles Amat 26
(near Butini and Môle tram stops)
Tel: 022 731 66 27
Rue de Fribourg 12
(near Gare Cornavin)
Tel: 022 732 65 08