Hungry for guests – Maastricht restaurants opening up but uncertain of future

By Melisa Salas

The relaxation of corona restrictions is something we all have been looking forward to for months. In the southern city of Maastricht, restaurant and cafe owners are cheering that they can open up their terraces again to receive guests. In a few days restaurants are allowed to receive guests indoors. But there are two big problems: a shortage of qualified cooks, and foreign guests.

John Paulus, regional chairman of the royal hospitality industry in Maastricht, mentions that restaurant owners are happy about the relaxation of the corona rules. “We are looking forward to a beautiful summer and we are delighted to receive a lot of guests and fulfil all their needs. We can finally do what we are most passionate about as restaurant and cafe owners,” Paulus says.

But that’s obviously not enough for the sector. For over a year now, the hospitality industry has suffered a major loss because of the pandemic. According to Paulus that’s something that will have a huge impact on restaurants and bars for a long time. “Ofcourse we’re happy that we can receive people on our terraces, but it’s far from enough. Being open until a certain time or not being allowed to put TV screens on during the UEFA Champions League is a huge loss for us when you talk about the financial perspective. That’s why to many restaurant owners the relaxations are considered both positive and negative.”

Staff shortage

Restaurants and cafes all over the country are facing a major staff shortage of employees. This is a huge problem to restaurant and cafe owners; it can lead to restaurants staying closed for some days because there isn’t enough staff available.

According to Paulus, this is all because of the lockdown we had been in. “Waiters aren’t hard to find”, Paulus mentions, “college and university students are thrilled that they can find part time jobs again. But when you look at kitchen staff, they are very hard to find at the moment. During the lockdown they started educating themselves to get a different job because of all the uncertainty when the hospitality industry would be able to fully open its doors again.” The shortage of kitchen staff and cooks is a huge problem for restaurants. If there are no cooks, the quality of the dishes available on the menu is less good.

But what about the quality of the brand new and young waiters and bartenders? It’s definitely a good thing that they are quite easy to find at the moment, but the quality of the waiters is not the best at the moment. “The new staff are often part time and have no experience walking with trays or serving drinks at all”, Paulus mentions, “and we see that terrace guests are quite often annoyed by that. Hopefully we will get some experienced full-time employees back.”

John Paulus, regional chairman of the royal hospitality industry in Maastricht


Tourism from Belgium and Germany

Since Maastricht is close to the borders of Belgium and Germany, usually there are a lot of German and Belgium visitors in Maastricht. Now because of all the restrictions it’s difficult for visitors from those two countries to visit the Burgundian city. “It’s a hard pill to swallow”, Paulus mentions, “before the lockdown we had a lot of tourists from our neighbours. They spent a lot more than the average Dutch visitor. But we’re staying optimistic, soon it will be easier for Belgians and Germans to visit our beautiful city again.”

But what makes the city of Maastricht so special and unique? There are several reasons according to Paulus why people fall in love with the southern city and why it’s so different than other Dutch cities. “The hospitality industry only is already more authentic than other cities in the Netherlands. Here in Maastricht restaurants and bars are way less commercial. There is no Starbucks or Loetje to find, for example. If you walk through the big cities such as Amsterdam or Rotterdam, there are a lot of restaurant chains. The quality of the food of those chains is often less good to my opinion.” Paulus mentions.

Another reason what makes Maastricht so unique is the mentality of the locals. “In Western Holland life is more rushed than it is here in the South, while life here is considered more relaxed and tranquil. I think we got that from Belgium,” Paulus says. “In Maastricht it’s very normal that when the weather is good, people stop working earlier and go out for drinks to enjoy the lovely weather.”