Galina Sharafutdinova: ‘We need to develop our product, not support other countries’ economies’
Despite the crisis, restaurant businesses of Kazan for the first time in 3 years have been in the black, and the average check has increased by 15%
With the fall in real incomes, Russians increasingly prefer going to inexpensive cafes and canteens to visiting expensive restaurants. Kazan has not been bypassed by this trend, although the general situation in the restaurant industry is better here. The city has managed to preserve and strengthen the title of the gastronomic capital of Russia this year, said Galina Sharafutdinova, the executive director of the Association of Restaurateurs and Hoteliers of Tatarstan. According to her, the attendance figures in the summer and during the week of the autumn holidays for the restaurant business crossed out even the pre-pandemic ones. How Kazan restaurateurs are coping with the shocks of this year, how they replace the missing Western delicacies and equipment, and how the average check in catering establishments has grown — the head of the association told in detail in the interview with Realnoe Vremya.
“We paid too much attention to imports”
Galina Mikhailovna, how is the restaurant industry of Kazan experiencing this difficult year? What has had the greatest impact?
Despite everything, this year the restaurant business feels much more comfortable, freer. Coronavirus restrictions have gone away, as a result, in the summer season we saw a large influx of tourists, and from May to October, catering establishments received a large flow of visitors, sometimes higher than the pre-pandemic indicators. I would also note the fact that many enterprises have even grown by 10% compared to 2019.
How did it happen? After all, in the spring, the Russian restaurant market seriously sagged, because of the cold May, summer verandas did not justify themselves, and suppliers raised prices up to 70%. How did they manage to cope with this?
All force majeure situations have hardened the business community. As the pandemic has shown, we were not ready for such drastic changes. Figuratively speaking, they started doing something on their knees, changing, trying. Of course, they were wrong, but they moved on. To date, all kinds of working mechanisms and technologies have already been developed that allow, under various restrictions, sanctions pressure and other negative situations, to make decisions that will save the team and keep the company afloat.
How is the industry experiencing anti-Russian sanctions, it's no secret that the restaurant business in Russia in many of its segments was tied to imported products, equipment?
Everything is solvable with this. It's just that we used to pay too much attention to imports and completely forgot that Russia used to be able to provide for itself, increase production, and work for self-sufficiency. We need to develop our industry, develop our farms. And we should give an opportunity to develop our domestic product, and not support the economy of other countries. I'm not saying it's a bad thing — we shouldn't isolate ourselves from the world. But the facts show that we did practically nothing ourselves — this is very sad, because everything that was purchased from the outside could not be replaced at once. And even now it is impossible to replace some products.
Half of the raw materials are products of local producers
But in these difficult conditions, we have given the opportunity to the business community, those who want to work on the land or produce locally, to start producing products in accordance with demand and supply them for the catering industry. Today we see that such productions are developing very well in Tatarstan. At the moment when the sanctions began to take effect, and some products disappeared on the market, we realised that it was easier and more convenient to work with those who are here and nearby.
Firstly, it is an excellent logistics chain that reduces costs, and a very big plus is that these are natural, high-quality products. As a result, the chefs of the establishments revised their menu and made decent offers for our guests. Today, in the assortment of dishes of Kazan restaurants, in my opinion, 50 percent of the raw materials are products of local producers.
If we talk about seafood, they remain on the menu. Yes, the price of them has increased. But to replace supplies from Japan or Norway, we have the Far East, Murmansk, there are regions where marine products are produced, which, so to speak, have been replaced by imports, they were simply purchased in a smaller volume earlier. So seafood lovers have something to offer.
But restaurants today have become very active in using local, river fish in the menu, which did not exist before. Our chefs prepare it using new technologies. This is a good product made of simple, understandable to everyone local fish.
There were foreigners among the chefs of some restaurants in Kazan — did they stay or left for their homeland?
We didn't have so many of them, not at all like in Moscow or St. Petersburg, literally a few. And no one has gone anywhere, everyone is here.
“Muscovites are already watching and understand that the level of Kazan is growing”
How thinned are the ranks of Kazan restaurateurs, what are the losses in establishments this year?
There is always a dynamic of openings and closures — this is quite a normal story. As a rule, conditionally 10 opens and the same number leaves the market. In good times, a slightly smaller number of establishments are closed. During the pandemic and the post-Сovid-19 period, there was a different picture, there were much more closures. Today, the stabilisation process is underway. This year, there have been bright openings, new establishments are preparing to open next summer. The market has started to feel much better, those entrepreneurs who have really prepared and understand what they are doing and for whom, feel confident.
At the height of the pandemic, the industry was supported at various levels. Do you need such support now?
I think the catering industry does not need any special support now. But after the start of the special military operation, we received appeals to the authorities in the spring with a request to reduce the cost of renting municipal property, to allow summer verandas to work free of charge. The Kazan Mayor's Office strongly supported us with verandas. Now the main thing is that the incomes of the population do not fall, so that there are funds and opportunities to go to cafes and restaurants.
Some analysts said that due to various shocks Kazan may lose the title of the gastronomic capital of Russia. Apparently, this is not going to happen?
Yes, the potential of Kazan as the gastronomic centre, on the contrary, is only increasing. This can be seen in the example of the Russian restaurant award WHERETОEAT. And in terms of gastronomic potential, experts who evaluate establishments across the country have given our city a high rating. We see how Kazan chefs create truly gastronomic masterpieces, how they work with taste, experiment. The gastronomy of Kazan is developing dynamically.
And even St. Petersburg, which was an ardent opponent of this status of Kazan, is already reacting less negatively. And Muscovites are already watching and understand that the level of Kazan is growing. We have no way back, we need to do everything possible to consolidate our status and be the true gastronomic capital of Russia, and not only according to documents.
I am grateful to Tatarstan restaurateurs for their contribution to the development of eating out, for creating new, interesting concepts with a new approach. I think that in 3 years, if there are no new shocks, a wonderful pool of players will be formed in Kazan. Guests from St. Petersburg, Moscow, Krasnoyarsk, Sochi will come to us to taste Tatarstan.
Are any of the Russian restaurateurs ready to enter the Tatarstan market?
Muscovites are actively filling our market — we see this in the establishments of restaurateur from Moscow Timur Lansky, the Vasilchuk brothers. Arkady Novikov came in with Syrovarnya on Black Lake, there are also small formats where Moscow invests. So there is interest in Kazan, and it will continue to remain relevant. By the way, a number of other projects of Moscow players are being prepared for the opening.
“Average check of catering establishments in Kazan has increased by 10-15 percent”
This year, the products and services of suppliers have significantly increased in price. How has this affected the pricing policy of Kazan catering establishments?
The average check has increased by about 10-15 percent since the beginning of the year, but again, this is very selective and not in every institution. Many have revised their menu in favour of not raising the price at all. They created new dishes from local products, found more interesting combinations of what is produced in our republic. Our guests did not notice a massive increase in prices. If we raise the price bar, we may lose our consumer.
Certainly, purchasing power has decreased, but nevertheless, people who are accustomed to eating out give priority to eating in cafes, restaurants or canteens. Time is running out now, everyone appreciates their minute and, in my opinion, today it is better to devote free time to communicating with family, children, friends. We welcome everyone, we are always happy and open to our guests.
Nevertheless, the real incomes of the population have fallen. How much less have they begun to visit expensive restaurants in Kazan?
Yes, today this all-Russian trend can be traced in our country. But we know that October-November is traditionally a low season for the restaurant business. We are ready for this downturn and believe that everything will stabilise, especially ahead of the New Year holidays, which will allow people to get away from negative emotions. We will wait for summer, tourists, and, of course, the end of all cataclysms.
I would like to note that the past November holidays, the week of autumn holidays, brought a very large flow of tourists to Kazan for the first time, unexpected for us. Such attendance of catering establishments during this period has never been before — even before the pandemic, then we simply did not notice the November holidays.
Your forecast for 2023, what expectations do restaurateurs have?
Many entrepreneurs have stopped making long-term plans. If earlier they were for 5 years ahead, then for 3 years, now for a year or two. Of course, business lives only when it develops, so projects for the future, no matter what, are thought about. They are already making plans for 2023, thinking about how to strengthen for the summer season, working on new, bright dishes to surprise our guests.
Business today has a good attitude that gastronomy is necessary and important, which means that it needs to be developed to offer not only high-quality food, but also to give positive emotions from the atmosphere prevailing in establishments. We, in the restaurant business, do not and cannot have a place for depressive moods, we cannot be depressed, otherwise it can be transmitted to our guests. We are about hospitality, we are about a thousand and one pleasures.