Catering and return to smart working: how many places at risk? – RB

Catering and return to smart working: how many places at risk? – RB

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Catering and return to smart working: how many places at risk? – RB

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Catering and return to smart working: how many places at risk? – RB

The massive return to smart working, in the wake of the rush of Omicron, is likely to translate into yet another blow for catering, sector already severely tried.

“After the hard backlash suffered by collective catering during the first wave of the pandemic (in 2020 the sector recorded 40% less in revenues and volumes ), with schools in DAD and offices closed, in 2021 the sector had begun a phase of slight recovery in volumes and had rediscovered, albeit with a thousand difficulties, a planning approach.

Now – explains Carlo Scarsciotti, president of ORICON Collective Catering and Nutrition Observatory -, with this new pandemic wave, the small positive signs recorded in recent months have vanished. Despite the fact that companies, with their usual resilience, have adapted to the situation to stay on the market by developing new ways of providing their services (smartlocker, app and delivery), with the massive return to smart working company catering will be stopped once again . A situation that if it were to continue over time would give the sector a strong push with very negative consequences for entrepreneurs and workers “.

ORICON – in the light of the resumption of infections from Omicron – has designed two scenarios in order to assess the impacts of the new wave on the Collective Catering sector that still struggles to recover from the general stop of the 2020.

Smart working and catering, which scenarios?

In the worst , and most likely, of the two scenarios on the recovery of the sector weigh the uncertainty linked to the current situation of contagions, with absences from work destined to grow exponentially and consequently fewer presences in canteens, and a new mass use of smart working. In this context, the volumes of meals produced would return to the levels of the first quarter 2021, when the country was almost entirely in the red and orange zone, i.e. in a de facto lockdown.

All this would compromise the recovery started in the second part of 2021, when the collective catering had recovered a 25% compared to -40% of 2020, and growth would stop at 3%, shifting more than two years the return to pre-pandemic levels. The revenues of the business segment would thus be consolidated on the 896 million $ of the 2021 and sales volumes on 148 millions of meals, a quarter less than pre-pandemic levels, when the values attested on the 200. 589. 000 of meals and 1. 198. 000. 000 of revenues.

The second scenario, currently considered less likely, sees a recourse to smart working in line with the last quarter of 2021, when remote workers were just over 4 million against 5.7 million of the previous March. In this case, the corporate catering sector could continue the recovery path started last year growing in the 2022 of 14%, while still remaining far from the pre-pandemic levels (beyond 15 percentage points below 2019)).

“The companies and especially the workers involved are very worried that the first scenario can be realized. We need to find an answer concrete to these concerns, together with the institutions. Catering businesses cannot be left alone “, comments Carlo Scarsciotti.

According to a recent Oricon survey, which dates back to December 2021, about one third of those employed in the corporate catering sector are still on layoffs (about 8. 000 employees) . With volumes and revenues stable at the already very low levels of 2021, their reabsorption would not be an easy task.

Good fund allocated by the Government, but not enough

A first aid to the sector arrived at the end of the year from the Ministry of Economic Development, with the signing of the decree giving the green light to the contribution of 100 million non-repayable to support collective catering, canteens and catering. Beneficiaries of this measure will be all the companies requesting and affected by the pandemic, which will be able to apply and receive a basic contribution of 10. 000 $ in addition to an additional contribution based on employees.

“We welcome the commitment made by the Government to provide an answer to the pressing requests received by the Observatory already last summer – concludes Scarsciotti -, it certainly represents a small help to a sector strongly affected by the pandemic. However, with the current situation, the Covid Fund terminated and still facing a year of strong uncertainty for companies, this measure is insufficient “.