Turkish restaurants looking for lifeline amid pandemic via NYE deliveries

Restaurants around Turkey are desperate for a lifeline and are reaching out to customers offering not only festive New Year's meals delivered to their door, but also some much-needed motivation.

K. Murat Yıldız / Duvar English

As the world is counting down to its first New Year celebrations under COVID-19 restrictions, the hospitality and gastronomy industries in Turkey, especially in cities like Istanbul, Ankara, and İzmir, are pushing Christmas and New Year meal deliveries to try and cover some of the losses they have faced due to the pandemic.

The food service industry in Turkey has been struggling greatly as they have been limited to deliveries. Decades-old restaurants and cafes have gone bankrupt and closed their doors. In addition, the Interior Ministry announced a 4-day lockdown starting Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. and ending at 5 p.m on January 4th.

Many restaurants have prepared Christmas and New Year's delivery menus for customers and distributed them via phone calls, text messages, and social media accounts.

Mahmut Düzcan (38) the owner of a popular restaurant located on one of Istanbul’s Princes’ Islands noted that, since the restrictions were put in place, their daily sales have decreased by at least 60 percent. However, their delivery service has increased by 75 percent during the same period.

“We will increase the production of certain items that are traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve, double the number of appetizers, and take custom orders,” Düzcan told Duvar English.

For entrepreneurs like Emel Demircan (46) who owns a restaurant in Kadıköy, one of Istanbul’s most lively and populated districts, it isn't just about money and profit.

“We are fighting for our existence here. We have the same problems as you. We can't endure this struggle without you. We are fighting. So please, fight with us. Don’t give up. This is what we are trying to say to our customers,” Demircan pointed out.

His restaurant, Kalamış Gurme, is offering a menu for 4 people with a selection of kebabs, appetizers, and non-alcoholic beverages (online sales of alcoholic beverages are banned in Turkey) for a total of 400 Turkish Liras (52 USD).

Professionals and experts point out that the potential profits made by restaurant owners from these deliveries will not cover the losses the industry has experienced during the pandemic but could cover some of their operating expenses and provide a lifeline.

Arto Koacabay (52), whose restaurant is also offering a New Year’s menu for 5 people at 550 Turkish Liras (72 USD), told Duvar English that this is more about survival than profit.

Major hotels are not happy with New Years restrictions

Restaurants are not the only industry where we are seeing this kind of messaging. The head of the Food and Drink Industry Association of Turkey, M. Vasfi Pakman, told Duvar English that hotels are disappointed by the government's strict decisions regarding New Year activities.

“I was at one of Istanbul’s most famous hotels yesterday and the occupancy rate was less than 15 percent. New Year festivities used to be a major source of income for those hotels. They cannot cover their operation costs by delivering stuffed turkeys,” Pakman said.