The catering industry continues to be an important pacemaker in the corona era
The corona crisis is affecting urban life. The Rotterdam Central District cannot escape this pandemic either. Offices are (partly) empty and it is quiet in the shops and on the streets. At the beginning of the crisis, the all-important catering industry, the driving force behind accidental encounters, was fully down, and is now slowly gaining momentum.
The terrace of Biergarten behind the Schieblock is twice as large. In the late afternoon, this part of the Rotterdam Central District (RCD) is buzzing, especially in summer. The stairs in the sun are the meeting point for suits, punks, and jeans, but now, because of the corona rules, everything is toned down. Roeland Flierman of the Mess Group, owner of Biergarten, looks sadly over the terrace. Nothing has come of the plans for 2020. He keeps his chin up and does not give up, hence the large terrace to make up for something.
In a poem by a city poet M (Arjen Mellink), he writes about the disappearance of the bass from the city "but if you listen carefully, you will hear an unprecedented heartbeat". Look at Ron de Jong and you will see the "heartbeat incarnate". He is a hospitality entrepreneur through and through and dared to start an establishment - Weena - in the RCD four years ago. Just like his colleague Roeland, he is experiencing the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, even though in the Netherlands it is gradually coming to its close. On the terrace of his second tavern in the RCD, Fontein, it is emptier than usual because of the 1.5 meter rule. The smoke from a special charcoal oven, a mibrasa, is rising.
Inside, next to De Jong, the co-founder of De Buik van Rotterdam and a catering trend watcher Gijsbregt Brouwer is seated. The reason for the conversation about getting that heartbeat back in the RCD is the opening of a rooftop restaurant by De Jong on top of Hofplein 19, in which, among other things, the new headquarters of Unilever Nederland and LaatBloisjes have already established themselves, plus the publication of the book “ Catering after corona - Yes: we're open again! ” by Van Brouwer.
“You can compare this area around Central Station with the Canary Wharf business district in London's Docklands a bit,” De Jong begins the conversation. “Many of those office buildings there have good eateries in the plinth where you can have a lunch or drinks after work. They have a strong afterwork culture in England. That was the reason to get a start in a vacant office of the Fortisbank on Weena. I dare say that my catering industry in this building has ensured that the amount of vacant spaces has decreased dramatically. ”
De Jong points upwards. “Unilever came here not only because of the place’s good accessibility, but also because of the presence of restaurants and other great catering spots. The catering industry is essential for the further development of the RCD. ”
Brouwer adds: “The catering industry across the board – from coffee shops to star restaurants - is an important element in giving the plinth a style. In the previous crisis (banking crisis of 2008/2009 / ed.), the catering industry once again provided the city with face for the visitors, thereby saving the property and the city. ”
Mibrasa for good street food
On the terrace of Fontein, a chef is standing behind the special grill, preparing tasty small snack dishes. He is looking forward to his job. For Gijsbregt Brouwer, this is a puzzle piece that has fallen into place faster due to Covid-19. “Street food has been on the rise lately. It lends itself to many places. ” De Jong and Brouwer point to a few places around the Hofplein where street food can easily be offered. Brouwer: “The area around a restaurant will increasingly become a regular part of the place where we consume our meals, because it is clearly more spacious than the inside of a restaurant or eatery. Street food lends itself to this. It also adds dynamic edge to the setting. ”
The city terrace is settling in permanently due to Covid-19, but also due to the changing climate. You feel freer outside than inside; you get relaxed faster. Ron de Jong, also involved in the new catering businesses in Tree House, will not open anything if "there is no outside". "You can put that grill there," he points to the grill at the edge of his terrace, "where mainly local or regional products are prepared." Brouwer adds: “The new normal will largely become local. In the coming period, ‘local’ will stand for safe and secure. ”
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