What a relief: the restaurateurs in the Saanenland have had an encouraging first weekend with open indoor spaces.
"It's almost like before, no, even better!" is the restaurateur's general tenor in the Saanenland. Whether in Gstaad, Saanen, Schönried, Saanenmöser, Lauenen or Gsteig, the scene on this first weekend since reopening the indoor gastronomy on 31 May was the same everywhere: satisfied faces among customers and hosts.
A hail of compliments
Sabine Köll from the Rössli in Feutersoey finds the guests very relaxed. "Some of the older guests who were still anxious in winter are now vaccinated, and the younger ones are usually more relaxed anyway." She believes that among all the corona restrictions, people probably missed gastronomy the most because they now enjoy it much more. This is noticeable in the more generous consumption and the more frequent compliments. "Eating out is not only about the physical intake of food, but also about socialising and communication," says Köll.
Corrado Tomasini from the pizzeria of the same name in Schönried also notices the more frequent compliments: "After more than five months of pizza from the box, the guests are again pleased about the beautiful presentation on the plate and the cosy get-together."
Protective concepts that have been tried and tested for a long time
Since Monday last week, six people are allowed to sit at a table on the terrace, four people at the table inside, and of course more for larger families.
The distances of 1.5 metres between the tables have not changed, and customers have long since become accustomed to the obligation to wear masks when getting up from the table. Moreover, all restaurants have had functioning protection concepts in place for months, so the latest opening did not pose any particular challenges for the restaurateurs.
A bigger problem for many establishments, however, is the lack of qualified staff. Almost all of the businesses surveyed have continued employing their staff thanks to short-time work regulations. However, some restaurants had lost employees who could not afford another lockdown or another short-time payment of 80 per cent. As a result, many have sought new career opportunities. "We are advertising a market that does not currently exist," says Vanessa Schwenter of Restaurant 16 in Saanen and managing director of the Sun & Soul Hotel.
Many catering businesses could still count on their permanent staff, but notice the absence of seasonal workers who cannot (yet) come from abroad without quarantine restrictions. And on the Swiss labour market, too, many newcomers to the profession would not have wanted to join in the first place because of the months of uncertainty in the hotel and catering industry, suspects Michael Ming of Alpenland in Lauenen.
Cautious optimism for the summer
Of course, the takeaway offer could not make up for the loss of income over the past months, and they probably can’t be compensated for it in the future, even if the summer turns out to be as beautiful as it is. But – and all respondents agree on this, too – it was important to keep in touch with the clientele. The terrace openings were also more of a symbolic step than economically significant: "Since the weather was not so good in large parts, you can't really talk about many more customers due to the terrace openings," remarks Christian Hoefliger from the Romantik Hotel Hornberg in Saanenmöser.
Take-away for the future?
What will remain of the pandemic? Will the establishments keep the takeaway offers? "We have always offered take-away, but during the pandemic, this area has naturally grown a lot," reports Christa Hauswirth from Charly's in Gstaad. "It seems to be a need for people, and we want to keep the offer."
Others like the Rössli in Feutersoey cannot maintain take-away services because of their limited capacity and regular service. And still others like the Alpenland or the Hotel Hornberg only want to continue the service on explicit request.
Effects on nightlife
With the reopening of indoor gastronomy, the curfew has also been abolished. Bros, for example, is therefore allowed to serve its guests outside until 11pm, as before the pandemic, and then inside until 0.30am or 1am on weekends. As with all the other establishments, the same applies here: People are only allowed to party sitting down. But that doesn't bother the young and young-at-heart guests much. The seats in the outdoor area are always full – that was already the case before. "We were one of the few café-bars open every day and had very loyal regular customers," Ahmet Bicik reports. "And then, just in time before 11pm, the run on the limited indoor seating begins." The rest, he says, unfortunately have to be seen off into the streets of the village with a closing drink.
All in all, Ahmet Bicik is pleased that, especially in times of pandemic, it became clear how loyal the regular customers were in defiance of all adversities and were in a good mood even in the cold and rain under set-up umbrellas. Corrado Tomasini also praises the regulars, whom he now calls friends and ate their pizza on the terrace even when it was only 6 degrees. In comparison, things can only go uphill from now on.
Based on AvS/Sonja Wolf