The reopening of restaurants in France has once again been delayed amid the Covid-19 crisis, forcing many to continue to depend on deliveries and government handouts for survival. But according to restaurateurs like Mehdi, who operates a restaurant in the Ile-de-France region, this is far from being enough.
In normal times, Mehdi's restaurant is open all day seven days a week. Now, it is open only in the evenings, for takeout and delivery.
To keep the business going, Mehdi delivers the orders to customers' doorsteps himself.
"Me personally, I stay open really just to keep in touch with my clients," he says. "Normally, it's always the customers who come to me, now it's me who goes to their home or workplace."
This evening, there have been only three orders.
"I don't really like to look at the figures. It depresses me," Mehdi says.
Mehdi has sought help in the form of a state-backed loan and a solidarity fund, but it is far from enough.
"1,500 euros, that's all. When for an establishment like ours we have monthly charges of between 18,000 and 20,000 euros."
In 2020, Mehdi's restaurant lost 45 percent of its turnover while along with the financial worries, the uncertainty is taking a toll on the staff's morale.
Five of them are now on partial unemployment benefits.
"That really pisses me off. It's not like the empty chairs and tables, at least I can tell myself that will come back," he says. "We're talking about people I love with whom I enjoy working… It affects people's morale and health. "
Things are unlikely to get better soon for France's restaurants. They are set to remain closed until at least mid-February.
One in two restaurants are expected to close their doors for good because of the health crisis, according to market research firm Gira.