Restaurants now fill up only on Saturday night

Thanassis Vasilainas is the owner of the legendary Vasilainas restaurant in Piraeus. He has always endeavored to ensure a good relationship between quality and price and, now that things are especially tough, this is where he is concentrating. «At the moment the crisis is mostly in our mind,» he explains. «The real crisis will be seen from September on, if the tourism industry doesn’t operate well. However, even the psychological factor has affected consumption. People now go out only on Saturdays. If I had four restaurants, on a Saturday I would fill all four. Friday is in serious decline and on weekdays we don’t work at all. Those who do go out on a Saturday are far fewer than last year. The difference in quality is noticeable. They order one main course and put it in the middle of the table; they don’t drink wine and they choose the cheapest dishes on the menu. It’s a fact that food in Greece is much more expensive than in the rest of Europe. Who will survive? I don’t know. I invest in ‘value for money,’ trying to attract more customers. I no longer work with banks to the same extent and try to use cash instead of checks. I invest in a personal relationship with customers. I want them to feel comfortable and at home when they come to my restaurant. I upgrade my Internet services, I choose my suppliers carefully and I find the same provisions noticeably cheaper than three or four months ago. Also, in the midst of this financial crisis, I invest even more in quality.» Yiannis Kaimenakis opened his new restaurant Cucina Povera, meaning «poor kitchen,» one month ago in Pangrati. The restaurant offers Mediterranean dishes that follow the season and respect the customer’s wallet. «I visited more than 100 premises before finding one that allows me to keep my prices down and send a positive message to the customer. They were demanding outrageous rents. So it is not the restaurant owner who is solely responsible for overcharging; some of the causes exist even before he opens. Pricing should be carefully considered. The days of the stock market boom, when we used to spend lots of money, are over. We must all be reasonable. As for quality, one can maintain it by following the example of our mothers, who return from the street market and say, «I found beans for 3 euros and I refused to buy them.» This is precisely what we do. We take a look at the market and decide what to buy. There are some excellent wines that I can’t afford. So, I buy others that may not be world beaters but are still of a certain quality. Fortunately, people understand, compare, acknowledge and reward such efforts.»

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