One of the outstanding Italian excellence is at risk! In Italy, the whole catering sector is at the limit of survival. Made of 285 thousand companies scattered throughout the “Bel Paese”, the Italian food & beverage industry represents a true flagship of the most tasteful and diversified gastronomy in the world as well as of one of the best ‘savoir-faire’ welcoming attitude ever experienced. That represents also an important part of national GDP, employing more than a million people with an annual turnover of EUR 60 billion per year, in normal times. Since the first severe lockdown in Spring 2020, the situation has been getting worse and worse making Italian restaurants, cafeterias, gelaterie, pizzerie and gourmet take-away among the most affected commercial activities within the pandemic economic crisis.
In April 2020, the Italian Federation of Public Services had already warned about the risk of having more than fifty thousand bankruptcies in short time. The Italian Government response did not meet expectations. To ensure social distancing due to Covid-19 health emergency, authorities started pushing entrepreneurs to invest a large sum of money to adapt their premises to new sanitary rules in order to continue their businesses.
Then, in late Spring they stopped again their activities on the basis that they were outbreaks of coronavirus, producing discontent among stakeholders, despite a mild attempt at economic support through a set of incentives, the so called ‘ristori’ against a relevant tax charge and an aggressive foreign competition that is attempting the most authentic “Made in Italy”.
After a brief summer recovery, national authorities have been imposing intermittently a series of closures and openings for many months, ‘colouring’ the Italian Peninsula in yellow, orange or red corresponding to low, medium or high-risk areas.
At Christmas time, Italian Government contradicted its original planning to guarantee a ‘Season’s break’ by imposing at the very last minute unprecedented limitations with strong economic and social impacts. Moreover, the daily number of Covid-19 infected citizens does not seem to decrease regardless of all sacrifices imposed.
Now, on the eve of new harsh governmental restrictions that will lead to the closure of catering and reduced take-away options in most areas of Italy for at least 15 days, some entrepreneurs said “That’s enough – Let’s stop it!”.
Consequently, various spontaneous manifestations like the block of A1 motorway by Neapolitans restaurant owners between its strategic link from Naples to Rome, a few days ago. Last but not least, a new campaign, #ioapro1501 (I open on the 15th January 2021) has just spread out in the whole Country through Social Media, reaching more than fifty thousand companies with the aim at opening for lunch and dinner on the 15th January 2021 in spite of the prohibitions imposed by the central government.
This entails risks of sanction and temporary closure of business activities but promoters would like to prove that certified restaurants and snack bars respecting rules are safe places where to stay and enjoy delicatessen without risking anyone’s health. Most part of supporters are recalling the fundamental principles of Italian Constitution protecting the Labour Law to justify this non-violent civil disobedience and a pool of lawyers is ready to assist them free of charge throughout the Country.
As reaffirmed in a recent Italian broadcasting interview with Umberto Carriera, businessman conceiver of #ioapro1501, there is a strong demand by citizens to support them in this initiative and a large number of restaurants that joined it had full reservations on Friday the 15th. According to campaign protocols, health prevention measures have been strengthened in that occasion. Although, the participation was not absolute since the stakes were very high and fines have been pouring in by security forces. This does not mean that Italian catering is happy with the situation, like many other categories of workers who do not feel protected enough with an uncertain future ahead.
On Friday evening, for instance, in Sanremo the atmosphere was rather quiet but you could feel a general anxiety and sadness in an improbable ghost-like downtown.
“Just after the huge Sanremo Music Festival, in February 2020, who saw us as protagonists, the total lockdown has completely stopped our business apart from delivery services we succeeded in promoting after a while” pointed out to HelloMonaco Gualtiero Maragni (G.M.), relevant actor in that field and owner of Victory Morgana Bay, leading gourmet restaurant, Sushi House, Lounge and Disco Club set in Sanremo sea resort.
HelloMonaco: What was the follow-up?
G.M.: “After complying with the national guidelines from the Italian government, we could survive the first coronavirus wave and revive a bit during Summer time. Since September the situation has increasingly worsened causing us a relevant annual loss of about 35% less in response to tens of thousands of euro spent for securing the place. The expected ‘ristori’ were around 10% on the proceeds excluding VAT contrary to what happened in France with a 20% support up to 75% in Germany with a very efficient crediting system and substantial incentives to keep the supplying chain standing. Furthermore, taxation on layoff has caused further losses to Italian employees.”
HelloMonaco: What makes you feel most anxious at the moment?
G.M.: Definitely, the great deal of insecurity. Closing and reopening are communicated with a notice period of 24 – 36 hours. How can you provide preparation of fresh products and staff management if you are not informed about the following rules well in advance? We are dealing with perishable goods so that we cannot be submitted to on-off measures. Nevertheless, I do not agree completely with this kind of protest since it is likely to worsen the situation, also from the point of view of public opinion. On the contrary, I would not generalize lock-down restrictions, limiting them only to cases where the rules are not respected.