Sleepless nights for Swiss caterers

Restaurants expect slim pickings in 2005 Keystone

Switzerland’s catering industry is forecasting a grim 2005, owing to falling sales and overcapacity in the sector.

This content was published on April 13, 2005 - 18:49

Gastrosuisse, the restaurant and hotel owners’ association, complained on Wednesday about the recently lowered legal alcohol limit, the anti-smoking lobby, VAT and excessive regulations.

"We need a breather," Klaus Künzli, the organisation’s president, told the industry’s annual news conference.

According to Gastrosuisse, the main problem is that there are 10,000 outlets too many. To reduce overcapacity, roughly a third would have to close.

"Many of our members are struggling to survive," warned Hans Peyer, Gastrosuisse’s acting director.

Despite stagnant sales of around SFr22 billion ($18 billion), new establishments continue to appear. In 2004, 690 restaurants and 61 hotels opened.

The reduced legal alcohol limit, which was introduced at the beginning of this year, certainly hasn’t helped the industry.

Sales down

According to a survey of 60 outlets, average turnover in the first quarter of 2005 sank by ten per cent compared with the same period last year. Sales of alcoholic drinks fell by 16 per cent.

The Federal Health Office and the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention believe that lowering the limit from 0.8 milligrams per millilitre to 0.5 will reduce the number of road deaths.

But Künzli attacked the council’s "one glass" campaign, saying it didn’t correspond to the facts and was seriously damaging businesses.

He claimed the industry was also coming under pressure from the anti-smoking lobby. Gastrosuisse says it is concerned that demands for smoke-free restaurants and bars will lead to more regulations.

"We believe that it should be up to the landlord to take suitable measures to create an environment where smokers and non-smokers can get along as peacefully as possible," he said.

Gastrosuisse also complained about the jungle of laws and regulations governing the restaurant and hotel sector, saying these must be simplified.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

GastroSuisse represents 20,530 Swiss hotels and restaurants – 216 more than the previous year.
In 2004, 590 restaurants went bankrupt.
Approximately 216,000 people work in the sector.

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