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ECONOMY

‘Fully booked for a month’ – France’s bars and cafés prepare to reopen after six months of closure

France's bars, restaurants and cafés will finally be allowed to reopen on Wednesday after six months of closure. But with reduced capacity and a bad weather forecast, it's not be the reopening many were hoping for.

'Fully booked for a month' - France's bars and cafés prepare to reopen after six months of closure
Terraces will be able to reopen at a 50 percent capacity with a maximum of six people per table maximum (everyone must be seated). Photo by BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

Wednesday, May 19th marks phase two of France’s reopening plan, which allows bars, restaurants and cafés to open up their outdoor areas only.

IN DETAIL France’s calendar for reopening 

All booked up

At Pipalottes, a restaurant in the 9th arrondissement, everyone is busy cleaning and getting the place ready for the big day. “We’re trying to make the most of the space on the terrace to be able to get everyone in, but we’re having to cancel some reservations,” said Maximilien, the owner whose terrace will accommodate 48 people. “We’re trying our best to keep everyone happy.”

On Wednesday, large terraces can reopen at a 50 percent capacity with a maximum of six people per table (everyone must be seated), and the curfew will be shifted from 7pm to 9pm. Indoor spaces will reopen on June 9th, when the curfew will be shifted to 10pm.

A ten minute walk away is Sausalito, a wine bar and restaurant that is also fully booked for Wednesday and Thursday night. “We’ve been booked up for the 19th for about a month,” said the owner, Antoine.

He is looking forward to reopening but like many business owners, he hopes this will be the final reopening. “I know that in the UK they are getting worried about the Indian variant, so we need to be careful and play by the rules. We’re crossing our fingers that we will be able to stay open all summer.”

“Parisians love having a drink on a terrasse. Six months without terraces is far too long. It’s just a pity that the weather isn’t great,” added Antoine.

Bad weather forecast

Others aren’t so optimistic, with storms and heavy rain forecast for much of the country.

“I think we’ll have our usual customers who will at least pop in for a drink,” says Alex, the owner of Source Infinie, a restaurant in the 10th arrondissement, which currently has 30 tables facing the street. “But we definitely won’t have the same amount of people we would have if we had good weather.” 

READ ALSO: Storms, rain and strong winds forecast for week France’s café terraces reopen

It’s bad news for François, the owner of Le Bistrot de Madeleine in the 9th arrondissement, who can expand capacity from 14 to 40 if the weather is good enough.

“It’s a real problem, because if it rains I can only seat people in this area,” he says gesturing at the space covered by a blue awning.

“We’ll open on the 19th, it’s important and we are looking forward to seeing our customers again. But we might have to close on some days if the weather is bad, and it’s not worth it for us if we can only serve 12 or 14 people,” he said.

“We are very dependent on the weather. But we are also very happy to be able to reopen, so we’ll have to take it one day at a time,” he said.

Social distancing and strict rules on capacity 

The capital’s bars and restaurants were allowed to stretch their outdoor terraces onto the pavement or the street last summer to allow more outdoor socialising, and these changes have been extended until at least June 2021 – after which they will have to be paid for.

Sausalito is one of the many businesses to have set up a terrance made from wooden pallets in what would usually be taken up by parked cars. “At some point we will have to pay for it, but we don’t know when yet.” said the owner, Antoine. 

Asia, the owner of Les Jolies Mômes in the 9th, has benefited from this measure, which means she can spread out her tables for 50 customers and maintain social distancing more easily. “We are lucky enough to be on a small pedestrian square, and the increased terrace space means we can follow the health restrictions.”

Large terraces will only be allowed to fill up half their space on Wednesday, but last week government officials announced that establishments with small terraces will not be subject to this rule – as long as social distancing measures are followed.

“We will make sure to keep around 1m between tables, but we haven’t been given any precise indications,” said François.

READ ALSO: Paris to keep its expanded outdoor café terraces until summer 2021

Serving food outside

The risk of bad weather, reduced number of tables and the curfew at 9pm makes it very difficult for some restaurants to serve food.

Source Infinie has decided to wait until June 9th, when aside customers being able to sit indoors, the curfew will be shifted to 10pm. “We are a restaurant, but since we are not able to welcome customers inside, and only have 50 percent of the space on our terraces, we’ve decided we’ll only be serving drinks for the time being,” says Alex, the restaurant’s director. 

“It’s far too expensive for the number of customers are allowed to seat, especially with the weather we have at the moment,” he said. “We’ll try to do our best, but I think we’ll have to be patient and unfortunately, even if people are looking forward to eating out again, we won’t be going back to normal straight away.”

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BUSINESS

What are the 26 French ‘unicorns’ hailed by the government?

France now has 26 'unicorns', something Emmanuel Macron's government sees as a major success. Here's what this means and how it affects France's future.

People dressed as unicorns attend a tech summit.
People dressed as unicorns attend a tech summit. France now counts 26 start-ups valued at more than $1 billion. (Photo by CARLOS COSTA / AFP)

In 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron set what seemed like an ambitious objective: having 25 French start-ups valued at over $1 billion by 2025. 

These companies are colloquially referred to as “unicorns” or licornes in French. 

The target was very on-brand. Macron had sold himself at a youthful, ambitious and liberalising president keen to lead France towards modernity. 

To achieve this goal, the government lifted regulations; hired liaison officers to manage relations between tech entrepreneurs and government ministers; created a new kind of visa to allow entrepreneurs, innovators and investors to move to France; and launched an incubator scheme known as the French Tech Tremplin (“French Tech Trampoline”) to help underrepresented groups such as women, poor people and those in the countryside to launch tech start-ups. 

Just three years later, it appears these efforts have paid off. 

“They told us that it was impossible – that creating a start-up nation was just an act. But collectively we have got there three years ahead of schedule,” said Emmanuel Macron on Monday, sporting a Steve Jobs-style polo neck as he celebrated the fact that France now had 25 ‘unicorns’. 

On Tuesday, La French Tech, a body run by civil servants aimed at creating a healthy environment for start-ups in France heralded another success – a 26th licorne

The latest addition is a company called Spendesk – it runs a platform that allows small and medium sized businesses to manage spending, expenses, budgets, payment approvals and invoices through a single integrated platform. It is already used by thousands of clients. 

Spendesk recently raised a further $100 million, pushing its overall value past the $1 billion mark. It plans to employ a further 700 people in France. 

La French Tech couldn’t contain its joy. 

“We don’t ask ourselves what is going on, we know it: #FrenchTech is booming #26unicorns”, wrote the organisation in its Twitter account. 

La French Tech claims that beyond the 25 ‘unicorns’ valued at $1 billion or more, there are a further 20,000 tech start-ups in France and that half of French people use their services daily. The organisation says that this sector has already created 1 million jobs – and that this figure should double by 2050. 

“French tech is obviously about more than these unicorns, but I see them as an example, a model for the rest of the ecosytem,” said Macron on Tuesday. 

So who are the other unicorns leading the way? 

Alan

This start-up was created in 2016 and offers health insurance coverage for individuals and businesses. What differentiates it from standard health insurance providers, or mutuelles, is that it functions through an easy-to-use app. Individuals can send medical bills directly from their smartphone and be reimbursed almost immediately. Doctors can be reached through the app’s messaging and video call services. Employers can manage arrêts de travail the comings and goings of poorly staff directly through the interface. It is currently available in France, Belgium and Spain, counting 230,000 members. 

Ankorstore

Ankorstore is an online marketplace aimed at supporting independent wholesalers – from florists to concept stores. It pitches itself as a platform to buy “authentic products and brands that e-commerce giants such as Amazon do not offer.” It is present in 23 European countries with offices in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK.

BlaBlaCar

This carpooling service has more than 100 million members across 22 countries. It connects drivers with people looking for a lift on a highly accessible app and website based platform. BlaBlaCar allows people to save money on transport and said that it saves 1.6 million tons of CO2 emissions in 2018 through ride-sharing – the platform has grown significantly since then. This company has also started running a bus service, BlaBlaBus. 

BlaBlaCar launched BlaBlaBus in 2019.

BlaBlaCar launched BlaBlaBus in 2019. (Photo by PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP)

BackMarket

Backmarket is a website for buying used, unused or reconditioned electronic devices. The company sells everything from cameras, to laptops, to iPhones – at well below the market rate. Many of the products come with a warranty. The company is keen to emphasise its role in reducing electronic waste and carbon emissions involved in manufacturing new products.

Contentsquare 

This start-up has existed since 2012. It acts as a tool to allow website and app designers to monitor how their users behave while on their webpage/app. Contentsquare provides analytical information that can help to tailor websites to improve the digital experiences of users. 

Deezer

Deezer is an online music streaming services similar to Spotify. It was founded in 2007 and counts 16 million active users. 

Doctolib

Doctolib is a platform that connects patients to medical professionals. Creating an account is free and allows you to book medical appointments, with filters such as the kind of care you want, the area of the medical practice and the languages spoken by the doctor. It runs via a user-friendly app and website and is available in France, Italy and Germany. During the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become the main way that French people have booked vaccination appointments. 

Exotec

This company was founded by two engineers in 2014 and manufactures intralogistic robots. The technology is used in warehouses of retailers, supermarkets, e-commerce and industry. In essence, it is used to remove human labour from the supply chain. 

iad

iad is a network where people can sign up to learn how to become an independent real estate agent – it also serves as a site where people can look for property to buy or rent. 14 percent of all properties sold in France in 2020 went through this platform according to one study. 

Ivalua

Ivalua is a tool used by organisations to manage spending and supplies. It operates largely though Artificial Intelligence and provides a wide range of functions designed to improve collaboration and decision-making. 

Ledger

Ledger is a company that provides individuals and businesses an easy way to buy and sell cryptocurrencies and store these currency on USB-type hardware. If you get sick of that guy at work who never stops talking about Bitcoin, this is probably not one for you. 

Lydia

This is a payment app that allows people with French bank accounts to send and receive money with other users, and is often used by friends to reimburse each other with small amounts for dinner, drinks, holidays etc. If you hold your savings in the app, you can benefit from a 0.6 percent interest rate. It also allows you to pay for things overseas without incurring fees. 

ManoMano

ManoMano is an online marketplace specialised in DIY and gardening equipment. It employs 800 people in 4 offices and operates across 6 European markets: France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Germany and the UK. It’s website sells products from more than 3,600 retail partners and stocks more than 10 million products. 

DentalMonitoring

Patients can download this app after undergoing dental work. They can then use the secured system to send pictures of their teeth to their dentist (if the dentist is subscribed to the service). The start-up boasts that it can allow dentists and orthodontistes to carry out remote consultations and that the AI technology embedded in the app can automatically detect dental problems. 

Meero

Meero is a company that connects professional photographers to clients and vice versa. It organises one photo shoot every 25 seconds and has more than 30,000 customers around the world. 

Mirakl

Mirakl is a cloud-based e-commerce company that allows retailers, manufacturers and wholesalers to access a single online market place. The start-up aims to help other businesses scale-up their operations rapidly and describes its staff as “Mirakl workers” (as in the French ‘miracle’ pronounced me-rackluh). 

OVHcloud

This start-up was founded in 1999 and is now Europe’s biggest cloud provider, offering both public and private information storage solutions. They also provide domain name registration, telecoms services and internet connection. 

PayFit

Payfit is an automated payroll service that allows employers to save time dealing with spreadsheets and other systems. It is an intuitive bit of software already being used by 6,500 small and medium-sized businesses.

Qonto

Qonto provides financial services to freelancers, self-employed people, small businesses, charities and new businesses. It provides solutions for managing expenses, accounting, invoices and payments. 

Shift

This company is based in Paris and helps global insurance companies to detect fraudulent insurance claims via artificial intelligence technology. 

Sorare

This is a fantasy football game where users build and manage squads, trading, selling and buying players. It makes use of blockchain technology. French footballer Antoine Griezmann is a major investor. 

A tradable player card from Sorare.

A tradable player card from Sorare. Credit: Sorare

Swile

This is a financial and networking service for businesses and employees. It essentially is a bank card with an app that allows employers to issue anonymous surveys to employees, facilitate communication via a messaging service, organise collections and plan events. 

Vestiare Collective

This is an online marketplace for second-hand luxury fashion. Be aware that some items still cost thousands of euros, so they’re only ‘bargains’ in relative terms. 

Veepee

This is an online and app-based service. Users can create an account for free to be alerted of upcoming sales of up to 70 percent on their favourite brands. It is available in eight European countries including the UK. 

Voodoo

Voodoo is a French mobile game developer and publisher. It provides help for video game developers to promote their work and councils them on the development process. In the past, Voodoo has come under fire for producing games that appear to be closely modelled on other games already on the market.

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