Food courts of discord // Anatoly Kostyrev on restrictions in catering

The well-known phrase “everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others” may well illustrate the decision of the Moscow authorities to suspend food courts from 13 June. As planned, this should prevent the gathering of people in a rather small area at the next peak of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Mikhail Goncharov, the co-owner of the Teremok chain, who recently visited one of the Moscow shopping centers (suffered greatly from the closure of food courts), was indignant on social networks with the queue and dense seating of guests in a restaurant of a large American fast food chain, which was able to continue working due to the presence of its own service hall on another floor. The restaurateur emphasized that in this case there are no significant differences from the work of the food court and the establishment, then why are the points that were simply unlucky enough to be in the limited “common zone” closed?

During the last wave of restrictions, the Moscow authorities did not distinguish between catering establishments located in a food court, in a separate room in a mall and in street retail, so none of the market participants, as they say, “was offended.” Moreover, the industry has attempted to unite in the face of a general crisis.

For example, restaurateurs signed a declaration, pledging, among other things, not to occupy each other’s vacated premises for a year. But today there is no need to talk about such unity.

At first, some market participants were not satisfied with the criteria for exemption from VAT under the experimental program announced by Vladimirov Putin at the SPIEF, now the owners of the corners at the food courts were the victims. The latter, among other things, will certainly try to enter into negotiations with the operators of shopping centers on the issue of discounts or even exemption from rental payments for the period of forced downtime.

Eaters have left the shopping centers

This approach may affect the future of food courts as a format, since it is the corners in the common area of ​​shopping centers that have recently become a “toxic” location for restaurateurs. So, even before Moscow, the work of food courts during the COVID-19 pandemic was suspended for a long time, for example, in St. Petersburg and Krasnodar.

This will certainly make many restaurateurs wonder how justified it is to preserve the corner if it is possible to occupy a separate location in the same shopping center, also placing some of the tables in the corridor. As a result, only insignificant establishments may remain in food courts that will not be able to move into premises with their own halls, visitors to shopping centers will lose interest in the format, and developers will prefer to place restaurants differently in order to insure themselves against risks in the event of another pandemic.

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