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Uncertainty to make post-COVID comeback hard for restaurants

The Budapest Business Journal talks with Zsidai Group owner and CEO Roy Zsidai about the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the restaurant business, measures implemented to prevent the spreading of the virus at the groupʼs restaurants, as well as the Zsidai Groupʼs future strategy.

BBJ: How would you compare the effects of the coronavirus lockdown on your businesses in Hungary, Spain, and Austria?

Roy Zsidai: The lockdown was shocking for all restaurants, not just ours since we had to close restaurants that have never been closed, in some cases for 38 years. The total uncertainty is a very strong stress factor and makes it very difficult for planning and is especially demotivating when it comes to our people and saving their jobs. No country in Europe was spared from these effects and the comeback will be hard everywhere.

BBJ: Currently, what kind of measures are implemented in your Hungarian establishments to prevent the spreading of COVID-19?

RZs: We have implemented strict measures based on regulations and European best practices. Since our health and safety measures are very strict by default, consistent application of common sense and extra attention to detail are the most important to provide a safe environment for our guests and teams. The most important is maximum attention for cleanliness and sanitization of all surfaces, and our staff wearing masks around guests and regular hand sanitizing.

BBJ: To what extent do domestic tourists compensate for the lack of international ones in Budapest, in your opinion?

RZs: Budapest is a cosmopolitan city and its gastronomic and hospitality offer - like in any such city in the world – can not be sustained by the local guests only. The supply is simply much greater than the local demand and since the epidemic has also negatively affected the corporate business, Budapest has approximately 10 times as many restaurants as private local guest demand. This is also the reason why only about 50% of the Budapest restaurants are open and an even smaller fraction of hotels. 

BBJ: Are there plans to open new restaurants or hotels in the foreseeable future in new cities besides the existing ones in Budapest, Vienna, and Marbella?

RZs: We have already used last year for preparations for an adjustment in the economy and have focused on improvements in quality and efficiency instead of intensive expansion so we donʼt have an international opening scheduled. Since our international strategy is based on cooperation via manchising (a hybrid between a franchise and a management contract) our international growth also depends on the expansion plans of our current and future partners.