Catering sector surprised by new customer registration, forced closure rules

Business

The Netherlands’ association for hospitality and catering businesses KHN is surprised by the new coronavirus rules that the government announced on Thursday. KHN general director Dirk Beljaarts wonders whether the 14 day closure of catering establishments in the event of an outbreak is a punishment, or really necessary for public health, he said to newspaper AD.

From Monday, restaurants, cafes, bars and other catering establishments must take down their customers’ details. Customers can refuse to give their name and number, but then the restaurant can also refuse them entry. The idea is that these details can be used for source and contact tracing if there is an outbreak. And if a Covid-19 outbreak is traced back to a catering establishment, the business will have to close for two weeks..

According to Beljaarts, catering establishments who had an infected guest can quickly open again after taking few measures. He considers a two week closure disproportionate.

He was also very surprised with the new obligation to take down customers’ data. “In one of our last conversations with Justice Minister [Ferdinand] Grapperhaus, we were told that registration was not an option due to the [General Data Protection Regulation],” he said, adding that he doesn’t expect restaurant visitors will be eager to give up their details every time they go out. “Some guests will like the idea, but there will also be guests who find it an obstacle. For example they may find that no one has anything to do with their data.”

Hospitality entrepreneur Won Yip, who owns several catering establishments in Amsterdam, considers the registration obligation a killing blow for the sector. “Write down your name and number: if you want to wring the neck of the catering industry, you do things like this,” he said to NOS. According to him, guests who do not want to give their details will simply give a fake name and number. “Or do I have to ask them for birth certificates?”

Yip called the new rules for the catering sector completely arbitrary and not feasible. “I understand that it was said in the press conference that travelers from risk countries do not have to be tested for corona. So then they might end up with us in the catering industry, and then we have to close. I mainly get day-trippers, who are almost impossible to trace.”

He too considers a two week closure after receiving an infected guest disproportionate. His Cafe Zwart on Dam Square had to close last week due to such an infection. In consultation with the municipality of Amsterdam, he closed the cafe, but was able to keep his terrace open. “My staff wear face masks, I had everything thoroughly cleaned by a professional company. If you, as an entrepreneur, do everything you can to get things back in order, what more can you expect from us?”

KHN general director Beljaarts said something similar to AD: “As catering industry, we want to do everything we can. We have taken our responsibility from day one and are subject to the strictest rules. That costs us a lot of turnover, but we believe that the catering industry should be safe for our staff and guests,” he said.