Tatarstan restaurateurs pray QR codes won’t get to the republic

“Our whole industry will be put paid”: will Tatarstan cafes and restaurants survive possible anti-COVID-19 restrictions?

Tatarstan restaurateurs pray QR codes won’t get to the republic
Photo: mos.ru

Moscow’s cafes and restaurants have started a new life in a new anti-COVID-19 reality since early July. One can go to Moscow cafes and restaurants only after showing a special QR code confirming the fact of vaccination against COVID-19, a disease that has taken place in the last six months or a new negative test. Restaurateurs are waiting for bankruptcies — traffic has dropped by 80-90%, while revenue in many of them has decreased tens of times. A decree indicating those categories of citizens that were subjected to mandatory vaccination against the novel coronavirus infection, restaurant and cafe workers among them, signed by Moscow’s chief sanitary doctor was another blow. Realnoe Vremya has surveyed Kazan restaurateurs about the readiness for the possible reinforcement of anti-COVID-19 restrictions for Tatarstan catering establishments. We have also talked about if cafe and restaurant workers in the Tatarstan capital are being vaccinated. As it has turned out, a lot of workers refuse vaccination, but nobody is going to dismiss or force them to receive a vaccine. At the same time, restaurateurs believe that the Moscow restrictions will be like a collapse and lead to new closure of restaurants.

“Nobody is going to dismiss anybody for refusing to receive a vaccine”

Executive Director of the Tatarstan Association of Restaurateurs and Hoteliers Galina Sharafutdinova thinks that staff vaccinations for Tatarstan establishments will become a measure that won’t allow introducing a system of QR codes to let guests get in catering establishments following Moscow’s example.

“After the introduction of QR codes in Moscow, we have seen a considerable fall in traffic. Moscow restaurateurs are registering up to an 80% loss of revenue. If we have the same dynamics, it can be fatal for the sector,” noted Sharafutdinova in a talk with Realnoe Vremya. “We are just starting to repay debts that accumulated during the lockdown and the second wave. Now there is traffic, tourists, visits. If we keep working in such mode, we really hope to repay most debts by the end of the summer. But if the new restrictions are introduced, new closures will be inevitable.”

Talking about the vaccination of catering workers, Sharafutdinova claims that it is actively pushed in restaurants and cafes in Kazan nowadays. According to her information, about 10-15% of workers of these establishments have received vaccines against coronavirus. About 40% of leading enterprises of the sector have begun or are planning vaccination shortly. Precisely their understanding of the situation will permit not switching to tighter working conditions, the interlocutor is convinced.

“Managers persuade their workers to receive a vaccine putting their own example. The staff understands that it is better to have a shorter working day, until 12 a.m. but not to close and try to avoid QR codes. The readiness to receive a vaccine is growing. Many have already received the first vaccine,” she says.

According to our interlocutor, if mandatory vaccination for catering workers is introduced in Tatarstan, she thinks employers won’t take extreme measures, they won’t dismiss workers who refuse to receive a vaccine.

“Today staff is the most painful theme after coronavirus that concerns us. Of course, nobody is going to dismiss anybody for refusing to receive a vaccine. We are talking about only the company’s loyalty, the brand and corporate spirit. Vaccination is anyway voluntary. But workers understand what a refusal of a vaccine can turn into, and many accept these rules. We remember how we were immunised against different diseases in our childhood. It seems it will become a norm of life again soon,” she says.

Sharafutdinov put an example. So if 20 people work in a cafe or restaurant, while one or two people refuse to receive a vaccine and they are professionals, they will likely be dismissed:

“We don’t want to take forced measures. We want everybody to make a decision on vaccination. The priority is to save the team because a business will stop existing without people.”

Impossible to “gain fat” after lockdown

Vice Director of The Old Barn chain of pubs Zaira Gayfullina believes that Tatarstan catering won’t be able to withstand new restrictions.

“No, of course, we won’t withstand new restrictions. You know what’s happening in Moscow. Their revenue has dropped by 90%. The same will happen here. We have a low percentage of citizens who have been inoculated. God forbid, if such restrictions come here like in Moscow, consequently our whole industry will be put paid. These restrictions are much worse than a total lockdown,” she claimed in a talk with Realnoe Vremya.

In turn, Director and founder of IQ cafe bar on Bauman Street Liliya Shaydullina admitted in a conversation with Realnoe Vremya: she hopes that the new anti-COVID-19 restrictions like those in Moscow will not affect Kazan catering establishments. According to her, to prepare for novelties, it is necessary to “gain fat”. But given the reality, the establishments operating in the market can hardly do this.

“To get ready, it is necessary to create some cushion. And this year in general was very bad for restaurateurs. So we simply had a physical possibility of creating a normal cushion,” she is convinced. “We worked only for a short period last year without restrictions, from July to October. Our establishment certainly didn’t reach previous years’ numbers. Perhaps, new establishments have some reserves, but those who have been in the market for long certainly find it hard to get ready. It hasn’t been possible to bounce back a hundred per cent from the lockdown.”

Our interlocutor thinks that if restrictions for cafes and restaurants with a QR code are introduced in Kazan after Moscow, there will be a new wave of closures of catering establishments.

Sales and Marketing Director of DoubleTree by Hilton Kazan Eliza Sagitova admitted that all hoteliers and restaurateurs are daily discussing if the new restrictions like those in Moscow await Tatarstan:

“Fortunately, such restrictions haven’t yet been introduced in the republic. And judging by the incidence, there won’t be any restrictions at the moment. But if new vaccination rules are introduced, there will be no choice — either you work on such terms or don’t work. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t give us choice, so we will follow the new rules.”

“We cannot say: ‘Since you don’t receive a vaccine, go away’”

Liliya Shaydullina acknowledged that almost all workers of IQ cafe bar don’t want to receive a vaccine. She says particularly the average age of the employees explain this (under 25).

“Many don’t trust vaccines. Rumour has it that a vaccine affects fertility. Young people are afraid of vaccination precisely for this reason,” she says.

And given the deficit of staff in the labour market, it is hard to find new workers who would be vaccinated or were ready for vaccines.

“We cannot say: ‘Since you don’t receive a vaccine, go away, we will find another one.’” Because I run the risk of not finding anybody for this position. The labour market has been very scarce in our sphere after the pandemic. A lot of chefs started working in construction, management, became sellers. There was a very big outflow from our sector in general. And it hasn’t yet recovered, there is a real collapse in the restaurant labour market. All restaurants are looking for staff, everybody has a shortage, people are overworking,” she states.

According to Shaydullina, the necessity of vaccinating employees is an additional factor that does not let restaurateurs live. Also, the requirement of mandatory vaccination for employees, as our interlocutor thinks, is a violation of their constitutional rights:

“I cannot make people do what I am against myself. For me, it is an unclear situation. Some are trying to hire vaccinated employees. But these attempts are not successful because few people have been vaccinated...”

Zaira Gayfullina claims that the workers of The Old Barn started vaccination if there aren’t contraindications. But some are categorically against vaccines, including managers. Gayfullina herself received a vaccine, but it is not planned to impose strict sanctions on the employees who refused it. Especially now, when there aren’t strict requirements for total vaccination. Zaira says: if mandatory vaccination is introduced for catering establishments in Tatarstan one day, a decision on further actions will be taken then.

“Perhaps, this will influence those who refuse too, and they will go to receive a vaccine,” Gayfullina thinks.

Gayfullina isn’t hostile to vaccines and believes that coronavirus will never leave us, it will stay around the world like the flu and viral respiratory infections. In this respect, it is anyway necessary to vaccinate not to get ill or have a mild case of the disease, she says.

Photo: mos.ru

“I want to as many workers of our chain as possible and the population in general to change their attitude and be vaccinated. But anti-vaxxers have their own truth. Some explain that they are imposed vaccination, while they are free citizens and have the right to choose. Some are in general against any vaccines — they don’t receive vaccines at all and do not let their children be vaccinated. Some are ready to quit in protest not to be vaccinated. To be honest, I don’t yet know how to talk with them. I think another person’s freedom ends where another person’s freedom begins. I persuade my workers to receive a vaccine saying that if they have the disease mildly, they can infect others who can be seriously ill,” The Old Barn’s representative tells Realnoe Vremya.

Eliza Sagitova recognised that nearly half of the DoubleTree by Hilton Kazan staff refuse to receive a vaccine because they are afraid of consequences.

“Nobody can say anything clear about vaccination consequences,” she thinks. “Everybody who refuses vaccination mainly fears the consequences of a vaccine. At least 50% of the staff doesn’t want to receive a vaccine now. We will see how the situation will unfold. Many people think they won’t receive a vaccine today. And tomorrow the opinion changes, and they go and receive a vaccine. But the other half of the employees agree to be vaccinated so I hope we will be afloat,” she considers.

According to Sagitova, her organisation will act accordingly restrictions: either to hire new staff or talk with every person who refuses to receive a vaccine individually.

“Neither can we make them receive a vaccine. It is everybody’s desire, everything is individual,” she claims.

“The Labour Code doesn’t have an article to dismiss a person because he isn’t going to receive a vaccine”

Co-founder of Mama Feta Greek restaurant Roman Butuzov hopes that new restrictions won’t be introduced for Tatarstan catering establishments, otherwise it will be another lockdown for the whole sector.

“The vaccination pace isn’t as high as we would like it to be. We have a lot of tourists and citizens who have not been vaccinated. If QR codes are introduced, it will be a real lockdown for our business,” he says. “I am really sorry for our colleagues in Moscow and Petersburg. I only pray that these restrictions won’t get to us. If they do, traffic will fall manifold. It will be a lockdown again, but a lockdown for one sphere. This causes a public outcry in our society. We are really concerned.”

According to our interlocutor, after the introduction of the well-known restrictions in Moscow and some other Russian regions, Mama Feta is already readjusting its business in advance. It is in particular considering the organisation of delivery, repayment of loans, accounts receivable and so on.

Butuzov acknowledges that Tatarstan restaurateurs were already angry about the local authorities for a ban on working at night while other regions lifted these restrictions:

“It was a trouble for us. But we survived it. Perhaps, this will become a plus that won’t lead us into another lockdown. Or not. The situation is very complex, but it is unclear yet how it will unfold...”

At the same time, the interlocutor is convinced that the restaurant business became the scapegoat.

“Mass running races take place here, we anyway use the metro, buses and trolleybuses. Why does only the restaurant business have to suffer? I am not an epidemiologist and it is hard for me to judge where to impose restrictions and where not. But as I understand, only one sector shouldn’t be suffering. Only catering establishments suffered in the same Moscow and Petersburg, others are working anyway,” he is indignant.

Butuzov says that staff vaccination in his establishment is very active. Two people left who are categorically against vaccination. It is a woman planning to get pregnant soon and her husband. Both vaccination and dismissal with compensation have been discussed with them, the spouses disagree with the options. Moreover, only this couple impedes the establishments from receiving a permit of the Tatarstan office of Russia’s consumer rights protection watchdog to work at night.

Photo: Maxim Platonov

“I have only two workers who don’t want to be vaccinated. They can be understood humanly. From a perspective of the business, I have to make a decision. To dismiss? But what for? The lady who refuses a vaccine is an excellent cook, does her job well. Neither can I refer a woman who is planning to get pregnant soon to mandatory vaccination. The Labour Code doesn’t have an article to dismiss a person because he isn’t going to receive a vaccine. The second worker is on holiday for a month now, after he is back, we will discuss the possibility of vaccination again. Perhaps, there will be made a decision on him,” Roman Butuzov says.

Kristina Ivanova