A night at home with the box, and souvlaki delivered to the door

“Come in, come in!» The waiter does his best to attract customers but, although it’s a pleasant evening, there are few people in the alleys of Psyrri. Where are they? In the comfort of their homes with some friends, perhaps watching a good film on DVD, picking up the telephone and ordering home-delivered pizza or souvlaki. Due partly to attitude, partly to fashion, but in most cases to a shortage of funds, Athenians have gone back home. Sales of DVD players have shot up and home-delivered food is now one of the most profitable businesses. «That’s what it’s like on a weekday. We’re only busy on Fridays and at weekends now,» remarks the waiter. How did Greeks decide to give up, if only temporarily, our favorite habit of going out to eat? The comments of a young couple who live in Patissia are indicative. «We used to go out practically every night, with friends or on our own. Now things have changed; we rarely go out, and then it’s usually on the weekend,» says Nikos Kipouros, 36. «Restaurant prices keep going up but my wage has stayed the same. We can’t afford it.» «That’s why we prefer to stay at home, invite our friends round and cook or order something simple,» adds his wife Melina, 35. «And, I’ll tell you what: We don’t mind a bit.» The latest data from the Greek Federation of Restaurateurs and Allied Trades shows that in the past year restaurant business has dropped by 30 percent. «It’s true that there’s a trend toward people staying home,» the federation’s general secretary Giorgos Kavvathas told Kathimerini. «People can’t afford to go out for entertainment like they used to. On the other hand, it isn’t easy for restaurants to lower their prices. Do you know that 48 percent of what you pay at a restaurant are charges that go to third parties? For the municipality, taxes – without counting wages, rent, and so on. Unfortunately, that’s why many restaurants close. Those who have benefited from the new trend are the ones who do home deliveries.» It may not always be like homemade food, as promised in the advertisements, nor be of the quality one might find in a good restaurant, but the food is cheap and it arrives ready to eat. In recent years, the home-delivered food business has flourished. «We are busy, yes,» the chief of a southern suburban branch of a large pizzeria chain told Kathimerini. «Of course, the money shortage has affected us too. Customers who used to order large amounts are now interested in checking out all the discounts. But we have certainly not been affected by the money shortage as much as restaurants have.» The stay-at-home trend has benefited another branch of business, video clubs, which had seen a downturn a few years ago. The number of stores renting videos and DVDs has boomed from 400 in the year 2000 to 2,000 outlets. «There’s a large increase, but as it grows, the pie is being shared among more people. Video clubs have become like newsstands,» Spyros Kokkidis, who owns a video club in Filothei, told Kathimerini. On average, a store rents 200 videos a day at a price ranging from 1.50 to 2 euros. Kokkidis attributes the trend toward this kind of entertainment to the fact that films come out much sooner on DVD than they used to. «Besides, the fact that newspapers and magazines offer free DVDs has led those who didn’t already have a player to buy one. And once they’ve bought it, they rent films.» It has been estimated that by the end of this year, 500,000 new DVD players will have been sold. They are much more affordable than they used to be; these days you can even buy them at supermarkets.