The (not quite so) great outdoors.

03. June 2021 (in Deutsch / en Francais)

As part of its three-phase plan to ease measures to combat the coronavirus, the Swiss federal government allowed restaurants, bars and cafés to open their outdoor terraces as from 19th April. In the six weeks following this opening (April 19 – May 30) the total volume of (card and mobile wallet) payment transactions at merchants in the category “Food & Beverage Services” amounted to CHF 52.3 Million per week, compared to CHF 79 Million per week in the same period of 2019. Thus, the observed turnover reached 66% of the pre-covid level. By comparison, in the six weeks prior to the opening of the terraces, the weekly turnover amounted to CHF 25.2 Million, i.e. only 30% of the pre-covid level (CHF 84.3 Million)

The total reduction in consumer spending for Food & Beverage services (compared to the pre-covid period)  is likely to be significantly larger than the 1/3 decline documented above for the past six weeks. This is due to a significant shift in payment behavior from cash to cards (link to: https://monitoringconsumption.com/Covid19_Cash/ ) since the onset of the pandemic. This cash to card shift is likely to be particularly relevant for spending in restaurants and cafés, as survey data suggests that spending in this category was particularly cash-intensive prior to the pandemic (link to https://monitoringconsumption.com/payment_behavior/ ).

A comparison of consumer spending across regions shows significant differences by cantons. Observed spending for food and beverage services in the cantons of Geneva, and Neuchatel were still roughly 50% below their pre-covid levels. By comparison in the Canton of Ticino spending was 26% higher than the 2019 level. Three determinants are likely responsible for the observed increase in Ticino. First, the above mentioned shift in payment behavior. Second, an increase in domestic guests during the spring-holiday period compared to the pre-covid period. And last but not least, the favorable weather conditions in the southern canton – at least compared to the wet and cool weather conditions north of the alps.