The restaurant looks like it could open any time. The tables and chairs are neatly arranged, the wine glasses hang shiny above the bar. The kitchen is tidy and the whole place is clean. It is cold, the thermometer reads twelve degrees. “I don’t turn on the heating anymore,” says Jens. A cup of coffee as you would expect in a restaurant is not included. The coffee machine is sparkling clean, does not work and waits for a new owner.
He concluded that his business is no longer viable two weeks ago. But he kept that to himself for a while. He wanted to think about the consequences and also about what to do next. It is clear to him: closure is inevitable. Looking at the debt that is there, to come and the expected income, he became gloomy. Because even if his restaurant were running at full capacity or even better, the turnover is too little to pay off the debts.
From dream to nightmare
The restaurant in the center of Deventer was Jens’ dream. He came up with the concept himself and he already had a successful restaurant elsewhere in Deventer. He later moved to larger premises to accommodate more customers. That was his dream, which started in hotel school and now ends in a nightmare. The problems don’t seem to be over yet.
Bankruptcy was looming and still looming. “Then it’s better to stop,” he says. Now that he has quit the company, most of the debts are in his name personally. “I have to look for a job to pay off the debts,” he says.
Together with the debt counseling of the municipality of Deventer and the creditors, he wants to make a plan for repayment. That job is not there yet and what he wants to do is not yet known.
Jens tells at a large table in his restaurant about how he started his business in August 2020 in good spirits. Vegetarian dishes are on the menu and if you want, you can have fish or meat served with it. There is a smile on his face at that moment and his tone is slightly optimistic. But that changes when he talks about the first lockdown in the autumn of 2020. Slightly emotional, but composed, he explains how his financial buffer has been completely absorbed.
If you open a restaurant during a pandemic, you know that there are certain risks. “I thought I could handle those risks. We started with a healthy financial buffer”. He did not think that the money would run out before the end of 2020. But there was no other option, because the costs of the first lockdown had to be paid.
Starters were unlucky
The catering industry was partly compensated by government support. The rules that apply to this are different for entrepreneurs who have just started. Jens cannot show sales for the period before August 2020, because his business did not yet exist at that time. The amount that is paid out as government aid is calculated over these months. According to him, there are even more rules that are to the disadvantage of starting entrepreneurs.