Well-frequented restaurants and cafés, fully booked hotels – after more than two years of the corona crisis, in which the industry had to accept annual real sales losses of around 40 percent, the numbers are going up – and even beyond the pre-corona level of 2019. According to a survey by the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (Dehoga), more than one in five companies (22.8 percent) reported sales growth in May of 20 percent and more, said the association’s president, Guido Zöllick, on Tuesday in Berlin. On average, sales in the past month were only 0.6 percent below the pre-crisis level.
In order for the industry to restart successfully, planning and reliable perspectives are now important. “I expect that the best pandemic precautions will be taken for the fall, many companies will not survive renewed restrictions and closures,” explained Zöllnick. Clear rules and uniformly defined risk situations are required nationwide for the winter half-year.
Massively rising costs and growing uncertainties as a result of the Ukraine war: Zöllick emphasized that the current challenges could hardly be greater. Nine months of lockdown and far-reaching restrictions would have left deep marks – on the entrepreneurs and the employees.
Not all of the more than 200,000 companies, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, conference and holiday hotels in Germany are doing well again. Every third company in the industry (33.7 percent) complains of a further decline in sales of 20 percent or more compared to 2019. Since the corona measures were lifted in April, it has primarily been private guests and trips that have given companies in the holiday regions an upswing.
However, business bookings are still well below the pre-crisis level. “Conferences and trade fairs are taking place again, but by no means at the level of 2019,” says the Dehoga President. A longer lead time is needed before this area of the industry grows again. You don’t just throw a conference with several thousand participants out of the ground.
It is central to the future viability of the industry that the VAT reduction for food introduced in July 2020 is retained. It was introduced to relieve the gastronomy in the corona crisis. The same tax rate applies to food consumed in catering establishments as to food-to-go, i.e. seven percent and not, as before Corona, a tax rate of 19 percent.
In 19 EU countries one is there further. “There is no longer a difference in terms of tax law,” says Zöllick. The Dehoga President demands that drinks should also be included in the tax relief, given the problems that the corona crisis has brought to the “drink-oriented” gastronomy.
The companies were most worried about the massively rising costs for energy, food and staff. Staff shortages are at the top of the list. In March, the Federal Employment Agency counted slightly more than one million employees in the industry subject to social security contributions. That is 63,000 fewer than in March 2019.
The situation is even more dramatic for young people: 41,500 young people are currently learning one of the six apprenticeships in the catering trade, almost 10,000 fewer trainees than in 2019. In order to address the shortage of skilled workers, collective agreements with wage increases in the double-digit percentage range have been in place in the last two months been completed. Training allowances have also increased significantly.
This was confirmed, also on Tuesday, by Guido Zeitler, the chairman of the Food, Enjoyment and Restaurants Union (NGG). The starting wage is almost everywhere at more than twelve euros per hour – an increase of up to 30 percent, he explains. Zeitler acknowledged that the increased personnel costs are a challenge for some companies. But there is no other way to get staff. “It is important that the guests now also show understanding and are willing to spend a little more for a decent meal and good hospitality.”
Although the summer started well, the third Corona year will probably also end with losses. In the first quarter, the hospitality industry saw sales fall by more than 30 percent compared to 2019. That can hardly be compensated for by December, said Zöllick.