Frank Röttgering (19995432) - The land of the Siestas y Fiestas
It's the week before Easter. In The Netherlands a relatively uneventful holiday with Easter breakfast and the sporadic decorated branch on the table. How different is this in Spain, where Semana Santa is exuberantly celebrated with countless processions through decorated streets, people in imposing robes, and the gathering of friends and family. Normally at least, everything is different this year, of course. “There are no celebrations now, this is the second Semana Santa we have to make do without the usual festivities.” I am speaking to Frank Röttgering, who owns a restaurant in Arriate, a village with 3800 inhabitants, 6 km from Ronda, in the province of Málaga.
The decline in tourism is clearly noticeable in the region. "This region is very much focused on that, we are near the city of Ronda, one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country. Many fellow entrepreneurs haven't even opened up again since the first lockdown. My luck is that I positioned myself as a local restaurant from the start, although of course I am not from here. We have a Spanish menu, written only in Spanish and I employ local staff who hardly speak English. Tourists know where to find us, we are well rated on Tripadvisor, but the locals like to come here too and that's keeping the restaurant afloat now. "
Today his terrace was full in the afternoon, at six o'clock the last lunch guests left. "We adhere very closely to the rules that are in place at the moment, not too many people together, a lot of space between the tables, that gives people a feeling of safety, so they keep coming. Despite this, the restaurant now runs about half of its normal turnover. This has a number of reasons: "locals spend less money than tourists. Everyone is familiar with the argument “oh well, we’re on holiday”, after which that extra bottle of wine is ordered. In addition, we are only allowed to be open until half past ten in the evening and that scares guests off for dinner. You have to imagine that people here often don't sit down for dinner until half past nine, so they don't really see the point of coming by for just one hour in the evening, they prefer to wait until they can eat out again as they were used to.
Like many colleagues, Röttgering started preparing meals for take away, also partly to keep busy. "It's not really part of the culture here to order take away, it's about the whole experience of eating out, the social aspect is just as important.
The measures taken by the government are sufficient for Röttgering's company. "My restaurant is in a warehouse of an old state-owned railway station. That is why I receive a rent reduction and in the months that I was not allowed to open at all, I received a contribution towards wage costs for my permanent employees. Luckily, I only had to let go the seasonal workers, I was able to keep the rest of my staff. "
Röttgering does not expect a very strong long-term effect for his sector. "Of course, there are people who have had to throw in the towel. One colleague has started a fish shop, another is now a chicken farmer, but I have also seen new restaurants being started. Spaniards are optimistic people, more than the Dutch in my opinion. They have a lot of confidence in a good outcome, they look to the future with a positive attitude, behavior that I have happily adopted over the years. People live day by day, are not worried about conventions and . A well-known saying is “No te entiendo, pero te respeto”, meaning “I don't understand you, but I respect you”, I think that's a very nice starting point. We can have a different view of things, but live our lives alongside one another just fine.’
These characteristics of the culture and the region are the reason that Röttgering moved to Spain twenty years ago. "My classmates from Nyenrode will tell you that I already had those plans back then. At the time I worked at the Bijenkorf, a great company to work for, but I always said that I would take this step when The Netherlands lost its charm for me. I started doing what I like, and I enjoy it to the fullest. This is the land of the Siestas y Fiestas, everything comes with a healthy dose of passion, and I think that's beautiful. "
Frank Röttgering (19995432) - owner of Restaurant El Muelle de Arriate in Malagá, Spain.