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Gastronom on Corona shutdown: "Learned a lot from the first lockdown"


The Hamburg taco restaurateur Miguel Zaldívar saw the shutdown coming - and has been preparing for it for months. But for many restaurants, the restrictions could mean the end.

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The Taquería "Mexikostrasse" on Eppendorfer Weg in Hamburg

Photo: Carolin Wahnbaeck / DER SPIEGEL

From the outside, the Taquería Mexikostrasse already looks like shutdown this Wednesday afternoon: The wooden beer benches are upside down on the tables, the green parasol is tied together, leaves have collected on the ground.

It's still only because of lunchtime - tacos aren't available here until 5.30 p.m., and negotiations in Berlin are still ongoing at that time.

But Miguel Zaldívar is already preparing for the shutdown in the restaurant.

In the dimmed light, he sits between Plexiglas walls and a Mexican Madonna towering over a washbasin in the restaurant.

Corona hygiene with a blessing?

"Many restaurants in Mexico have a Madonna like this - after all, you should eat tacos with your hands," says restaurant owner Zaldívar.

"It was clear that the next lockdown would come"

He reacts calmly to Corona and the new shutdown: "I'm Mexican, I'm used to crises - earthquakes, hurricanes, inflation, whatever," says Zaldívar, who next to this taco restaurant on Eppendorfer Weg in Hamburg also has another one on Sankt Pauli operates.

"It was clear that the next lockdown would come. That is why we developed new products for the lockdown in the summer. If necessary, we can survive for six months."

The taquería doesn't have to hold out that long.

According to the latest federal and state resolutions, restaurants and bars are to close from next Monday until the end of November.

The goal: to break the chains of infection by restricting contacts and to enable meetings again during the Christmas season.

But the hotel and restaurant association Dehoga is alarmed: "The closure of the catering establishments from November 2nd for four weeks is bitter for the employees as well as the entrepreneurs", says General Manager Ingrid Hartges.

"Many companies have their backs to the wall, and despair is growing."

The association warns that a third of the 245,000 companies are threatened with extinction.

In order to counteract this, Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz has announced that he wants to support companies: he wants to compensate for 75 percent of the lost sales - and that without any special obligation to provide evidence.

The pot should contain up to ten billion euros for four weeks.

Hartges welcomes the promised economic aid, which must now be provided quickly and unbureaucratically.

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Economical: Taquería operator Miguel Zaldívar with the "blue roll" of wiping paper

Photo: Carolin Wahnbaeck / DER SPIEGEL

"Wow, I'm speechless," says Taquería operator Zaldívar to the news of the economic aid.

How the German state supports restaurateurs like him - also with the Corona emergency aid in spring - "I can't tell my friends in Mexico that, then they'll all start crying," says the Mexican who sold sausages ten years ago Hamburg Christmas Market got to know Germany.

But he also thinks the help is fair, after all, thanks to its hygiene concepts, the catering trade is not really to blame for the spread of the virus, says Zaldívar.

First of all, the money will provide him with one thing: air.

The rent has already been deferred and he can pay the suppliers later if necessary.

Above all, it's about maintaining hope and energy in the team.

From warm "to-go packages" to hoodies and vouchers

This is the only way the "Mexikostrasse" can survive in the coming months.

Zaldívar and his business partner Brook Neale have optimized their out-of-home sales, developed various takeaway or online taco packages and opened up possible distribution channels as far as Scandinavia.

"We learned a lot from the first lockdown," says the 40-year-old.

"We sold taco kits for home in the spring, but that was too much manual work."

That's why only the most important things are left in it: tortilla, meat and salsa.

Everyone has to get fresh onions and coriander and chop them up.

And Zaldívar has meat and salsa produced professionally and plastic-free in glasses and according to supermarket standards.

"It's all more economical now and can also be produced in larger quantities and sold through various channels."

Another mainstay: warm "to-go packages" that customers can get from the two restaurants for lunch or dinner.

A third line of business is merchandising: T-shirts, hoodies and vouchers.

And Zaldívar tries to save costs: Business partner Neale already works part-time.

"And in the kitchen I urge people to use everything sparingly."

And picks up a large blue roll with soft wiping paper: "It's really expensive."

But is that enough?

In total, Zaldívar and Neale's team consists of 43 people - around 40 percent of whom are mini-jobbers, plus full or part-time employees.

Doesn't such a large company really cause sleepless nights in view of the shutdown?

Suddenly the Mexican becomes silent.

"Yes, I'm scared. I have two small children."

Many small restaurants would die in the next few months.

But immediately afterwards he clenches his fist, as if he wanted to cheer himself on: "But we will make it, I just have to stick with it every day."

He actually wants to grow, to open restaurants in Munich, Berlin or Bremen.

Bringing the taco culture to Germany "because there really is a market for it".

Icon: enlarge Photo: Carolin Wahnbaeck / DER SPIEGEL

After all, he has just invested 270,000 euros in the new restaurant in Eppendorfer Weg for this purpose.

They had actually wanted to open in April, but everything took longer because of the shutdown: First one of the construction workers fell ill with Corona, then some new kitchen appliances were stuck at the border.

With immediate aid, short-time work and the taco kits, they managed to get by.

Now the trained chef hopes that he will get through the shutdown with another short-time work, his out-of-home business and, if possible, without new loans.

And that this will really be lifted at the end of November so that customers can come back for at least part of the Christmas business.

Icon: enlarge Photo: Carolin Wahnbaeck / DER SPIEGEL

What he really thinks of this virus is revealed by an artfully made sign from Mexico, on the right on the wall next to the Mexican Madonna: "Pinche Covid" it says, translated: "F ... ing Covid".

He had it made especially for this restaurant.

Icon: The mirror

Source: spiegel

All business articles on 2020-10-29

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