For Parisian bistros and restaurants, a still uncertain recovery, marked by inflation and recruitment difficulties

A café terrace in Paris, opposite the Center Pompidou, on April 23.

At noon, at the end of April, despite a bright sun, the terraces glued to each other on the famous Place du Tertre, in Montmartre, in the north of Paris, are far from full. But English, Dutch, Spanish or German resonate again according to the tables. A real relief for restaurateurs. “We have not yet regained the level of activity of 2019, before the coronavirus crisis, but European tourists are back”, observes the director of the restaurant La Crémaillère 1900. Same observation At the clairon des chasseurs, a neighboring sign, where we date this arrival of Easter with the coincidence of French and European holidays. However, Chinese or Japanese visitors are missing.

On the Butte Montmartre, or in all the high places of Parisian tourism, bars and restaurants have long suffered from the lack of foreign customers. “In 2019, an exceptional year, Ile-de-France received 51 million tourists, in 2020, 18 million; and in 2021, 23 million”, exposes Frank Delvau, president of the Union of trades and industries of the hotel business Paris-Ile-de-France, illustrating the strong impact of the global health crisis on visits to the capital. A Covid-19 pandemic which continued to penalize catering at the start of 2022, with the measures taken to try to stem it, between encouraging teleworking, compulsory health passes and canceled events or trade fairs.

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“We started the year badly, with very bad months of January and February. In March, the activity quivered, and it really picked up in April”, believes Mr. Delvau. The holding of the Salon de l’agriculture, at the end of February and the beginning of March, kicked off the return of major events. Like the Foire de Paris, which opened its doors at the end of April and which still attracts a large audience. With the flow of business tourists and holidaymakers once again flowing through the streets of the capital since Easter, the engine of activity is finally restarting at near cruising speed. Even if the persistence of teleworking always upsets habits.

Battle for the terraces

But not all establishments benefit from this recovery in the same way. Having or not having a terrace is already a fundamental discriminator. After the first confinement, in the spring of 2020, the reopening of establishments was done with great latitude on the installation of ephemeral terraces. Anxious to support the profession, the City of Paris had opted for a simple declaration of these spaces, without requesting prior authorization, accompanied by free access. In addition, the tenants were able to spread out over the public space, conquer parking spaces, medians and squares. As a result, nearly 12,000 terraces had flowered in the spring of 2020. Rebelote in 2021.

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