Olga Nasonova: It’s too early to post yourself with food photos

Natalia MIKKOVSKAGIA

April 25 13:20
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Olga Nasonova on opening restaurants: It's too early to post yourself with food photos

Photo: REUTERS / Igor Tkachenko

The restaurant business is in its third year in a much worse position than any other. It is difficult to find an area whose activities during the coronavirus crisis would be more severely restricted. And with the war, as it turned out, the restaurants are also very poorly “coordinated”. While everyone now agrees that “business must work”, few people hear from anyone that restaurants should work as well.

Should restaurants be open during the war and should they sell alcohol? Why do today’s restaurant guests hate it so much? How did it happen that Western Ukraine is waiting for an explosion in the openings and in Kyiv, by contrast, a wave of restaurant closures? We discussed these and other questions with the director of the company “Restaurant Consulting” Olga Nasonova.

About the “new wave”

– Olga, let’s discuss what is happening today in the field of catering. As soon as the fighting subsided a bit, this operation immediately began to revive. One has the impression that the Ukrainians can adapt to anything in the shortest possible time!

Indeed, the state of fear and lethargy does not last long for the majority of Ukrainians. Our fellow citizens adapt very quickly and this applies to all aspects of life, including business.

If we talk about the work of the restaurant business, then the whole of Ukraine can be conditionally divided into three parts: the territories where hostilities take place, Western Ukraine and Kyiv.

– It is clear that in the military operations sector we are not talking about the work of cafes and restaurants. And what is the difference between the situation in Kyiv and the west of the country?

– The influx of refugees into Western Ukraine has led to the fact that restaurant businesses in these areas are doing quite well. Even in large cities in the west of the country – Lviv, Ternopil, Khmelnitsky, etc. – The local population was not enough for business development before. But in the last two months, the population of these cities has increased by tens, even hundreds of thousands of people. If each of them goes to a restaurant or cafe at least once, this is already a serious flow of customers.

Olga Nasonova: Today, restaurants in Lviv, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernivtsi are “creaming the cream”, so new facilities are rushing to open to make money.

Unsurprisingly, most of the cafes and restaurants in western Ukraine are very well stocked today, and this is true of not even the best restaurant representatives. The fact is that the locals did not have a tradition to go to restaurants often. But now in the same Khmelnytsky or Kamenetz-Podolsk came the people of Kiev, Kharkiv and gradually the newcomers begin to change the local way of life. Most of the richest Ukrainians have gone abroad and a fully-fledged middle class has reached the west of the country. Representatives of this middle class usually sit in a cafeteria for a cup of coffee, go for lunch or dinner with friends or relatives on Friday or a day off. So the number of visitors to the facilities is increasing at a tremendous rate.

Today, restaurants operating in Lviv, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernivtsi are “pouring the cream”, so new facilities are rushing to open very quickly to make money from this wave. Regardless of the type of cuisine – everyone eats. And the most popular format is the cafes, which always have a clientele. Firstly, it is cheap, secondly, the Ukrainians love coffee and thirdly, the refugees really missed the American or cappuccino – it was still problematic to make coffee in the basement.

In a word, in cities where there is a refugee flow, this business will grow. In addition, many are determined to stay in a new place for a long time, and if the house is demolished or destroyed, maybe forever.

– But, perhaps, the same can be said about Kyiv?

– But in Kyiv the situation is radically different: the occupancy here is not more than 50%.

First of all, Many Kievans left, so the number of customers did not increase, but decreased.

Secondly, Many of those who stayed in Kyiv did not leave for financial reasons and the austerity regime is doing nothing to encourage restaurant visits.

Thirdly, the curfew is still in force in the capital and this also limits the work of restaurants.

Now people are starting to return to Kyiv slowly, but again, mainly due to the fact that in other cities they simply have nothing to live on. Not every family has 700 or even 1000 UAH per day to rent an apartment. That is, those who, most likely, will not arrive at the restaurants after their arrival, return.


Olga Nasonova believes that restaurants give positive emotions and it is very important for people to accept them.  Especially at such a time.  Photo: facebook.com/restcons

Olga Nasonova believes that restaurants give positive emotions and it is very important for people to accept them. Especially at such a time. Photo: facebook.com/restcons

“In a special account”

– The open shops and their visitors today are very hated – they say, they found time to sit in a cafe when there is war in the country! What do you think, is it possible today to say in relation to a business – “time for work” or “no time for work”?

– Unfortunately, today too many people undertake to tell everyone what time to do and what not. Someone thinks it’s not time to drink coffee, someone blames those who did manicures and pedicures and someone else gets in the way of a neighbor’s fresh haircut.

Olga Nasonova: The institutions worked hard and volunteered as best they could, but as a result received a big slap from the state in the form of payments for a shared apartment.

I still believe that legitimate businesses should be given the opportunity to figure out for themselves whether it is time to work or not. If there are no customers, it will close on its own. But if there is a demand, the business can and should operate. Employees of restaurants and hairdressers also have to live on something and feed their families.

– And yet, restaurants are very important here. All you have to do is take a picture of the summer playground – and the comments fly immediately: they say, why did you sit down when all over the country people with children are sitting in the basements and starving? What’s more embarrassing today – going to a restaurant or posting a photo of this visit?

In any case, I believe that people who work even in such conditions deserve at least as much respect as those who give up and spend all their energy on panic and explosions.

As for the photos of the “beautiful life”, I think everyone should feel this fine line for themselves – what is worth showing in public and what is not. Today, the emotional state of our society is such that it perceives the problems of others better than the stories of a prosperous life. Therefore, I think that taking your joy and happiness out of life is rather inappropriate.

Yes, not everyone feels and understands this line. But it’s too early to post yourself with food photos.

About dishes and products

– Did the restaurants face food shortages in relation to the war?

– Yes, first of all it was about meat and cereals, as the most demanding products for military needs. In addition, periodically there were problems with vegetables.

In Kyiv, as, incidentally, in Odessa, many institutions participated in the voluntary movement – some from the first day of the war, some later joined. It was amazing to watch when, say, “very commercial establishments” were seduced by honest volunteering and found themselves in the role of feeder for many people. Others fed the needy, others prepared 10-15 thousand portions a day for the needs of the military. Everyone also worked under different circumstances – how it turned out for someone. Someone bought food, someone agreed on free supplies and someone managed to attract donations – subsidized money.

Anyway, all these institutions worked hard and volunteered as best they could, but as a result they received a big slap from the state in the form of payments for a shared apartment. The kitchens were operating at full capacity for two months, so the bills were impressive. Our shared apartment was expensive even for peacetime, but for the military it was just awful.

Olga Nasonova: Alcohol is not only the income of the facilities, but also a kind of helper to survive the difficult times.

Another unpleasant moment is that not all landlords have reduced the rent. In a power horse, the rent can be reduced at the discretion of the landlord, but this “discretion” can vary.

In a word, many were lost. Thus, Kyiv – the largest restaurant city in Ukraine – is waiting for a wave of closure.

– During martial law, a lot of controversy arises over alcohol. Do you think it’s worth selling alcohol in wartime restaurants?

– I think yes. Alcohol is not only the income of the facilities, but also a kind of helper to survive the difficult times. Good alcohol, like good food, gives positive emotions. At the same time, I am far from believing that alcohol in restaurants is a danger to the population. Anyone who wants to drink will always find what and where: after all, we have ancient traditions of the moon.

– Do new dishes, cocktails or at least new war-related names appear on the menu of Ukrainian restaurants?

– Basically, these are cocktails with new names – Molotov, APU, Neptune, Bayraktar. One of the shops was advertised with a new drink: here is served coffee with a portrait of the Russian president, which must be burned. But generally speaking, the menus have become simpler, the need for complex gastronomy is reduced.

In conclusion, I want to say that the restaurant, in addition to the duty to feed the guest, has another very important function – emotional. Restaurants give positive emotions and in our time it is very important: to help people even now to get some pleasure from life.

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