Can the Spanish learn to dine earlier to save restaurants from covid crisis?

Can the Spanish learn to dine earlier to save restaurants from covid crisis?
Photos: AFP
A gigantic advertisement has appeared on the side of a building in downtown Madrid. It’s a tongue in cheek plea to the English to share, if not their fashion sense, then at least their dining habits.

“Dear English people, We will accept socks worn with sandals if you teach us to eat at 8pm,” reads the Schweppes ad covering one side of building works on Calle de Alonso Cano in Madrid’s Chamberí district.

The message is a serious one: Can the Spanish learn to eat earlier in a bid to save the country’s struggling eateries?

With curfews in place forcing late-night loving Spaniards to head for home by midnight in the capital and the region of Valencia and as early as 10pm in other parts of Spain, many are choosing to completely forgo dinners out rather than shift their eating habits to earlier in the evening.

Instead of sitting down to dine at 10pm, restaurants across Spain are trying to encourage people to start at 8pm, a time which would still allow for a drawn-out sobremesa before the curfew kicks in.

The association Hostelería de España,  an association that represents bars, restaurants and hotels across Spain, has been running a campaign with the hashtags #AdelantaTuCena ('bring your evening meal forward') and #SalvemosLaHosteleria ('Save the Restaurant Industry') using a logo featuring a dome plate-cover bearing the time of 20.00 (8pm).

Some 270,000 establishments across Spain have joined the campaign as they struggle to survive. Those that were able to reopen after the strict lockdown of March and April were hit by a summer with few tourists followed by more restrictions, curfews and now closures as the second wave hit.

Regional authorities in Catalonia, Castilla y Leon,Cantabria, Galicia and Murcia have all taken the decision to close bars and restaurants except those providing take-away services as part of their measures to control a surge in infections.

This has provoked demonstrations across Spain by those working in the hospitality industry who fear for their livelihoods.


Restaurant workers take to the streets banging pot lids in a protest against closures in Barcelona. Photo: AFP

 

It is estimated that some 90,000 of Spain’s bars and restaurants will have closed permanently by the end of the year.

“We have had to reduce the number of tables (under Covid-19 safety measures), plus people are going out less, either because they are being careful or they have less disposable income,” explained Fernando Neira, a bar and restaurant owner in the Asturian coastal city of Gijon.

“But let’s be honest, people don’t want to become more “Nordic” in their dining habits. Nobody here eats at 8pm and that’s going to be hard to change overnight”.

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