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ECONOMY | 18-03-2020 18:12

Deliveries and 'quarantine combos': Buenos Aires restaurants adapt to coronavirus

City's restaurants and bars, hit hard by lost business amid the coronavirus pandemic, are being forced to adapt to a new reality.

To curb the coronavirus pandemic, we’re told to stay home and minimise non-essential outings. Buenos Aires' bars and restaurants are suffering as a result – and they're adapting to a new reality.

Reactions to the crisis are diverse. Those that remain open have taken extreme hygiene measures and reduced table numbers to maintain the suggested distance between diners. Others have shut up their dining rooms and placed bets on delivery and take away options. All of sudden, "quarantine combos" are beginning to appear to seduce eaters and boost consumption.

"It's a time of great uncertainty. We are trying to adapt to the government's measures," said Guadalupe García Mosqueda, the creator of Casa Cavia, Orno Pizzería and Pablo's Bakery. "But in this job it's almost impossible to do anything remote, because we're in the kitchen. That's why we continue to work with maximum hygiene conditions in the restaurants."

Fears are rife in the food and entertainment sector.

"The industry's fear is that there are premises that will close and won't be reopened. Until it [mandatory quarantine] is obligatory we will continue,” said García Mosqueda.

Agustín Latorre, the owner of Osaka, agrees. He decided to try and "revive" his business with a bet on take-aways.

"For the first time in the history of the brand we incorporated the delivery system, with our own method and soon we will be on all platforms. We have a giant fixed structure and for us it is unsustainable to close. Even though the turnover is very small, each cover adds to us so that at the end of the month we can pay our salaries," explained the restaurateur.

The Dandy chain is also registering its delivery options on all platforms, adapting its menu according to most popular orders, promoting the supply of pizzas, sandwiches, cakes and salads. The same is happening with more traditional restaurants too, such as Sottovoce, Quotidiano, Burladero and Fervor, which are making their first steps into take-away and delivery systems.

The Villegas grill in Puerto Madero, which is mostly frequented by tourists, has had to be reinvented. It has signed up to delivery and telephone order platforms with special packaging, to ensure the correct temperature of the meat and the dishes is maintained as long as possible. It also launched several "quarantine combo" options.

Several restaurants such as Hell's Pizza, Canta el gallo and Bruce Grill Station & Wine Bar, have granted discounts of up to 30 percent for those who choose a take-out option.

"We're going to put all our guns to work to encourage the delivery service more than ever. It's an opportunity for many restaurants to join these platforms," said Carlos Araujo, owner of La Causa Nikkei, Sushi Pop and Izakaya Sushi.

We have "to pay essential bills like those of equipment and suppliers," he said. 

At Fayer, the Israeli cuisine restaurant in Palermo, they decided to take extreme disinfection and hygiene measures in order to remain open, although with a reduced number of tables to comply with the suggested distance of one metre between people.

"We have the experience of what happened with our headquarters in Madrid, which is now closed, so we are taking this situation very seriously in order to continue operating,” said owner Alejandro Pitashny. The gastronomy sector has very much been affected, as is the hotel and tourism industry. It's a time of great challenges."

Italian chef Daniele Pinna, owner of La Locanda and I Due Briganti, has taken things to the extreme. He decided to eliminate all dining in and to dedicate himself to delivery and take away options, using his menu as a base.

"In my opinion, no restaurant should be open to the public because it is a priority that we collaborate with the campaign they have set up to prevent future cases of coronavirus in the country," he said.

The managers of Ajo Bar, a tapas and street food bar in Colegiales, decided to do the same.

"We didn't think it was wise to remain open and we believe this is the way to minimise risks for our staff and clients and to be able to cope as best as possible with this crisis," said chef and owner Gaspar Natiello.

At the top end of the market, however, things aren't quite so simple. Most haute cuisine restaurants have decided to close completely, since their offerings are impossible to adapt to delivery services. This is why big names such as Aramburu, Bis de Aramburu, Chila and Tegui, will not open their doors until March 31 – or perhaps further down the line.

Paulina Maldonado

Paulina Maldonado

Prosecretaria de Redacción de Diario Perfil. Mail: maldonado@perfil.com

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