Vouchers and Microcredits Last Resort for RestaurantsBy Jan Hogewoning | Wed, 05/06/2020 - 10:18
This week, Heineken announced it would support 10,000 restaurants that employ around 50,000 waiters by introducing vouchers for post-COVID-19 beers. Individuals will be able to purchase vouchers reserving between two to eight beers. It is not the first step the brewery has taken to help out during the pandemic. In late April, the group provided water bottled in Heineken bottles to groups representing essential workers in different segments. Grupo Modelo, Heineken Mexico’s main competitor, has also supplied water as well as sanitizing gel to authorities. In addition, Grupo Model is offering to provide microcredits to support shop owners and other vulnerable groups through the incubator Z-tech and an alliance with Konfío.
Vouchers have already been offered by restaurants during the crisis in the form of meals, which can be cashed in when the contingency ends. The initiative started with Culinaria Mexico, an organization that promotes Mexican food and the Mexican hospitality sector. By April 1, dozens of restaurants from around the country had signed up to the program. Vouchers can be purchased through the social media and direct phonelines of restaurants at a price between US$20 to US$40. The initiative is part of a larger campaign called Salvemos Restaurantes (Saving Restaurants). So far it is unclear whether the efforts have reaped income for restaurants.
Apart from vouchers, the National Association of Restaurants and Condiment Foods (CANIRAC) has pushed for other measures to support restaurants, such as delays in tax payments. The federal government, however, has been adamant that payment delays will not be an option. The only alternative is to pay taxes in installments. At a state level, governments have relaxed their tax collection strategies, however.
On May 4, the federal government is kicked off the distribution of microcredits to small businesses. The plan is to distribute 1 million credits electronically, with 800,000 small businesses already having signed up. With credits of around MX$25,000 (US$1,029), the measure will most likely fall short of helping restaurants brave the storm. Restaurants are in a very tight spot, with sales down by 90 percent as of March 26. The industry could be considered the driving engine of the Mexican economy and a central pillar of Mexican society. The impact of COVID-19 is expected to worsen as more restaurants run out of reserves to pay their staff. While vouchers are likely to provide only a mild relief, a wider social media effort to drive people to purchase vouchers would help.