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Teleworking continues to impact Brussels hospitality sector

Illustration picture shows a restaurant bar in Brussels, Belgium (BELGA PHOTO HATIM KAGHAT)
05:56 10/09/2021

The development of teleworking has strongly impacted the hospitality sector during the pandemic, particularly in certain districts of Brussels where companies and administrations are located.

Since the start of the school year at the beginning of September, workers have gradually returned to their offices, but there are not yet enough to ensure the complete recovery of Brussels cafes and restaurants.

Some employees are opting for hybrid schedules, alternating between teleworking and face-to-face work. For Brussels restaurateurs, the recovery is not happening at the speed that many hoped for, and business is still way below pre-pandemic levels.

"Before corona, we served breakfast at 7:30 am, then we had the 'rush' of office workers for coffee, then we had our lunch service," said one restaurateur from the Madou district, which would usually be thriving due to the many governmental and EU buildings in the area. “We had to make the most of it because we don’t work in the evening. But things at the moment are not ideal and even at the usually busy times, we are way below our expected numbers.”

Another employee at a café in the same district also said that the expected return of customers has yet to materialise in the numbers predicted by some. "It hasn't picked up very well, I think there's still a lot of telecommuting,” she said. “For us, business has decreased by 70%. We can no longer fill our places at noon. It's really very quiet."

Some cafes, snack bars and restaurants near Madou have been forced to close their doors. The others which remain open hope that the easing of restrictions and the continuing but slow return to some semblance of normality will eventually mean workers will come back.

“Of course, we all hope that life returns to normal sooner rather than later,” said another café owner, whose establishment is close to the usually vibrant Congrès area. “But for many in our industry, it’s already too late. We appreciate that keeping safe and well is the priority but on a professional level, businesses like ours need the people to be here. If they stay away, then more and more places like this will go under.”

 

Written by Nick Amies