Assortment Lists For Catering Are «Cut», But Not Abolished
Foreign investors in Belarus have to deal with a variety of unexplained from their point of view government initiatives. On the one hand, they are aimed at protecting domestic producers, but on the other – they form the overall negative picture of doing business in Belarus. A striking example of the indirect (non-transparent) measures to support domestic producers is using assortment lists of products manufactured in Belarus, mandatory for the procurement by restaurants and cafes.
To foreign investors considering the possibility of working in catering, it is quite difficult to explain the need to purchase 54 items of alcoholic beverages produced in Belarus to open a luxury bar. It is more difficult to convince them that Belarus has its own production of wine, cognac and champagne – and this in the absence of an appropriate level of vineyards.
To improve the quality of services and the level of price / geographic availability of catering as well as to diversify services, the state decided to consult with business, including foreign one: by the Order of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus № 168r dated 05.05.2016 the interdepartmental working group to develop proposals for improving the organization of catering in the Republic of Belarus was created.
The Association of European Business is a member of this group and has the ability to make proposals for reforming catering formulated by the AEB members. Thanks to the initiative of LLC «MPS-Hotel» (Renaissance Minsk Hotel), the AEB member of the Committee on the development of infrastructure in the field of tourism and hospitality (HoReCa), the proposals for the removal of barriers to do business in the field of catering were developed and submitted to the Ministry of Antimonopoly Regulation and Trade. One of them was the requirement to eliminate the assortment list of products manufactured in Belarus, mandatory for the procurement by restaurants and cafes. Following the European approach of doing business, restaurants and cafes should have the right to choose freely a supplier of goods, no matter whether they are produced in the country or imported. According to the AEB, the removal of the list will affect productively the investment climate (as the non-transparent instrument of protecting the domestic producer will be removed), and will reduce the costs of catering.
In the summer of 2016 the lists were revised towards a significant reduction in the number of purchased product items for each of the six sections. For example, a first-class restaurant previously had to purchase 32 items of alcoholic beverages, so now this number is 16. The own production of a first-class restaurant was 40 items, but now it is only 10. All other items were also substantially reduced - at least 2 times. Similarly, the number of items for bars was reduced.
In addition, the classification of the own production is simplified and reduced. Earlier a restaurateur had to cook 14 kinds of cold dishes and snacks, 3 kinds of soup, 9 hot dishes, etc. Now with the adoption of a new list a restaurateur has the right to choose any item of the own production to offer to customers. Thus, a first-class restaurant should have 10 items of any products listed in the list of catering products (for example, 10 kinds of cold dishes and snacks). The new version of the list can be found in the Decree №35 dated 10.10.2016 here.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to abandon the lists completely, because to do so we need to make alterations to the Law of the Republic of Belarus № 128-3 dated 08.01.2014 «On state regulation of trade and catering in the Republic of Belarus», which is a lengthy process. However, the Association of European Business and other members of the working group continue to insist on the complete elimination of the assortment list, as in the achievement of development goals there should not be «half-measures». Possible solutions of implementation can be the adoption of the Decree of the President with the list of «fast» and «point» reforms for a qualitatively new level of stimulating catering and attracting foreign direct investment.
Moreover, following the proposal of the MPS-Hotel and other major restaurateurs, the Ministry of Antimonopoly Regulation and Trade decided to reduce substantially the criteria for referring catering facilities to classes and dividing them into restaurants, cafes and bars. Only 5 criteria were left. The new version of the Decree №32 dated 06.10.2016 can be found here.
The Association of European Business invites those who are interested in the improvement of business climate for foreign investors to join the work of the AEB Committee on the development of infrastructure in the field of tourism and hospitality. The Association experts will help to formulate and justify proposals of foreign investors in the sphere of HoReCa and ensure their promotion to the government authorities at the national level.