Learnings from Pastry Connection: “Restaurants Today in Europe and Latin America, Current Vision,” with Belén Parra and Ignacio Medina

In a situation where everything is uncertain in the world of Hospitality, we had the pleasure to listen to Belén Parra and Ignacio Medina, two culinary journalists with two years of experience, who analyzed how the pandemic is affecting Europe and Latin America.
Both journalists started off agreeing with the fact that no one was prepared for a sudden shutdown of their activities, which has lead popular and fine dining restaurants  to desperately rely on delivery. Belén tells us that, currently, the experience in person is being reduced, which has left a large part of the team unemployed. Some restaurants have been able to adapt their menus to this new scheme, but others haven’t had the same opportunities and were forced to close. They also remark that this new system is not sustainable in time. Uncertainty is prevalent and it is clear that restaurants do not have supplies, and a number of them have not even planned well their business models yet. Lacking daily sales can mean ceasing to exist in any place around the world.

However, Ignacio sees opportunity within this new scenario. To be able to make it, it is necessary to reduce the amount of collaborators, which sometimes reached up to 30 people before the pandemic. Qualifying one person so that they can complete different tasks like serving and being a wine critique, will allow them to take advantage of their abilities. He also questioned why we are we asking support only for restaurants, as if libraries, hardware stores, and convenience stores aren’t facing the same problems. In many cases, the sad reality is that restaurant owners invested all of their money in their businesses in order to achieve fame and a greater scope in the market. No one really thought about saving money or asked themselves how to sustain their businesses if tourism was suddenly banned.  
There are countries in Europe that have started to adapt themselves, such as Sweden, where quarantine did not take place nor restaurants closed, but depended on international customers. Today, they are trying to appeal to national customers. In Latin America there are many different scenarios: in Ecuador almost all restaurants have shifted to depend solely on delivery, switching their fine dining menus to comfort food, dishes to share with the family, and traditional cooking techniques. Fast food has gained a new sense, as customers are now obliged to cook and recreate the food served at many restaurants in their own homes. In contrast, Peru has taken more time to allow delivery and set up sanitary regulations that assure security for the worker’s and customer’s health.
Belén and Ignacio invited us to analyze the ideas that have arisen from this new way of experimenting cuisine and the things left unsettled as we continue staying home:
-       The idea of Chef at home arises and specialized catering services for events with few people.
-       Reduced spaces within restaurants to accommodate small groups of people.
-       Find a way to make 60% of the restaurant’s capacity be occupied, so that it will be moderately profitable.
-        The priority will be to adjust and feed, instead of create.
-    The chef must rediscover their passion for the origins of their cuisine and job.
-       Proposals must be reduced, menus for tasting sessions must be left aside, and a proposal for healthy eating habits must be considered.
-       Details in dishes served in person will be eliminated.
-       Protocols regarding usage and silverware cleansing will be considered.
-       The waiter will only serve the dishes, and will not be able to interact with customers as usually done.
-       The customer has to demand the origin and traceability of the product they consume and question whether its handling is responsible.
-       The new restaurant must sell the product as raw material and not only as a finished product. In this way, the producer is exposed.

In a world where everything is being rewritten, we must continue contributing with ideas and conversations to support the transition through which all food and drinks business are going through. Let’s seek to contribute.



  Ana Carolina Maldonado, Chef and Dean of the Hospitality Faculty at UIDE. Creator of "La Comilona" blog.