Eating out from now on: small groups, in shifts, but mouth masks are not required


The measures that Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced yesterday hit the catering businesses hard. As corona infections continue to increase, avoiding crowds has become even more important.


In Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Eindhoven there is an additional urgent advice: wear a mouth mask in an indoor space, including in restaurants. Mayor Femke Halsema of Amsterdam said yesterday evening that a mouth cap duty is ‘difficult to arrange’, and that is why it remains an advice. “But we want it to be self-evident in our city and region.”

When we call, the Rotterdam restaurant Mood is busy informing the guests who have already booked. “There were to be 150 people on Friday, but we can now only admit 60. Just like before the summer, we have decided to allow guests in two shifts”, says an employee.

Prefer to be completely closed

So: 30 guests from 5 pm to 7.45 pm. And then again 30 guests from 8 pm to 9.45 pm. There is not much time, especially in that second shift. “Yes, that demands something from the customers. Pay at 9.45 pm and then out the door.”

Eveline Wu, owner of Mood and a number of other restaurants in Rotterdam and Eindhoven, emphasizes that safety is paramount. “We do everything we can to ensure a safe situation for the guests and the staff. I would rather have seen the government shut us down completely. With government support it is easier than this: now I have to continue to pay my staff,” while we have much less income. “

Wu is strict with her employees: she was not allowed to go on holiday abroad because of her last summer. “And I had Mood mouth masks for my staff, which I’m going to provide again. You don’t want to end up in a situation where someone gets infected when a guest talks to a waitress.”

And mouth masks in the restaurant, would she want to wear them? “Yes, please,” says Wu. “The whole world is doing that, but we in the Netherlands are not. But because the cabinet sticks to advice, you simply cannot oblige your guests. The government must say: yes or no.”

Why do these stricter rules apply to the hospitality industry?

Despite the fact that most catering establishments do everything they can to prevent guests from infecting each other, the RIVM figures show that the number of infections via the catering industry is increasing. Furthermore, large clusters of infections are related to the catering industry. This means that multiple infections can be attributed to one specific place at the same time.

RIVM director Jaap van Dissel has given an explanation about this in the Lower House. Since 1 June, 131 active clusters have been counted in the hospitality industry. On average, such a cluster consists of ten people. In one case, there were even 342 corona cases. “The consequence of an infection in the catering industry is therefore greater”, says Van Dissel.

And for Wu’s restaurants it is also important to keep it a bit cozy. With 30 guests in a space of 800 square meters, that is not easy. “We’ve screened off the space a bit, so guests don’t feel like it’s very big.”

She finds the measure about limited group sizes strange, regardless of how large the space is.

Rutte defends mouth masks decision

Her fellow entrepreneur Won Yip, who owns a number of catering businesses in Amsterdam, is even angry about this. “It’s too crazy for words. Isn’t there anyone who thinks logically in a practical way?” He wonders aloud.

“You can let the number of people depend on the size of the room, in combination with a good ventilation system? For me it concerns 500 square meters and a system that extracts 17 times per hour. Then 30 people is ridiculously few.”

No bullshit

And then the masks: Yip, like Wu, does not understand that the cabinet is not making a clear decision about their use. He is certainly not against it.

“But the government has to say: to wear or not to wear. Not that bullshit that a shopkeeper or catering entrepreneur can decide for himself. You create problems with that. Since the beginning of the crisis, contradictions have been created by this cabinet. They go again and again. the mistake. “

Brand manager Mariëlle Olde Bijvank of restaurant chain La Cubanita reacts resignedly to the news about the new measures. “We have to deal with it. We are going back to the situation of June.”


One restaurant at La Cubanita is bigger than the other. “Now that we can only receive 30 guests, we will divide the evening into two shifts in a number of cases.”

And mouth masks, should guests wear them at this restaurant chain? “We follow the advice of Koninklijke Horeca Nederland.”

Trade association: mouth masks are not mandatory

Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN) says that entrepreneurs react calmly to the advice to wear a mouth mask in catering establishments in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Eindhoven. In neighboring countries, for example, face masks are worn upon entry, departure and when visiting the toilet. This is not mandatory in Dutch cities, but it is therefore recommended.

“This forms an additional barrier to a catering visit, while catering entrepreneurs have done everything since the beginning of the crisis to create a pleasant and safe nightlife environment,” said a spokesman in a response. According to KHN, the share of infections that can be traced back to the catering industry is ‘only’ 3.9 percent.

The spokesperson expects that the mouth masks advice will lead to a lot of hassle. “The problem will be thrown over the fence. There will be many guests who will say, ‘It’s just advice, so you can’t deny me access to your business.’ We hope guests take their responsibility.”

KHN asks their members to follow the guidelines of the cabinet and the RIVM. “If the cabinet and RIVM decide that mouth masks will be compulsory nationally, it is important that it is well substantiated what this will deliver in terms of safety.”

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