Restaurants in Greece Slow to Adopt New Rules for Olive Oil Service

Six months after the new rule banning refillable bottles, the restaurants who apply it are still an exception.
By Sofia Spirou - Agronews
Sep. 10, 2018 09:03 UTC

New rules in Greece that came into effect in January 2018 aim to stop restau­ra­teurs from serv­ing oil in refill­able con­tain­ers which in some cases con­tain oils of infe­rior qual­ity.

The qual­ity of olive oil as well, and how you com­mu­ni­cate it, is cru­cial.- Tasos Dimas, co-owner of Tzitzikas and Mermigas restau­rants

According to the new rules, olive oil must be served in sealed bot­tles much like wine, to be opened at the table.

But will it work?

Although still at an early stage, there are signs that the rules have been adopted by sev­eral restau­rants, but not by a crit­i­cal mass.

The mea­sure has suc­ceeded to the extent that oil cruets have been with­drawn from most tables, but this was the easy step. Most restau­rants are reluc­tant to apply the new rule because it raises costs at the same time they are try­ing to lower costs amid the finan­cial cri­sis.

According to Ioannis Kouzoupis, owner of the restau­rant Elia e Tsipouro and vice pres­i­dent of the Panhellenic Federation of Restaurants and Associated Professions (EPESE), the new mea­sure raises the price of olive oil con­sid­er­ably. Unfortunately we have to charge for the sealed olive oil bot­tles, whose price starts from about 1 euro for 50 ml — which is absurd if one takes into account that oil is an essen­tial part of the diet and a basic food,” he said.

Proof of the prob­lems the new mea­sure poses, accord­ing to Kouzoupis, is the fact that con­sumers find the sealed bot­tle very expen­sive and do not buy it. I have sold very few bot­tles since the begin­ning of the year, only about 10.”

Nikos Koutouzis, owner of the restau­rant Kentrikon” agreed, I have not sold more than 100 bot­tles of branded olive oil since January, whereas tak­ing into account the turnover of the restau­rant I should have sold 100 bot­tles per week.”

The key role of the restau­ra­teur

The main aim of the new rule on the manda­tory use of branded olive oil at the table at restau­rants, which was a demand of the Greek Association of Industries and Processors of Olive Oil (SEVITEL) and agreed upon by the Federation of Restaurants, is not to increase demand for branded olive oil but to enhance the image of Greek olive oil to con­sumers, espe­cially tourists.

In the pro­mo­tion of branded olive oil, the role that restau­ra­teurs play is cru­cial accord­ing to Tasos Dimas, co-owner of the restau­rant chain Tzitzikas and Mermigas, because the man­ner of the pre­sen­ta­tion goes a long way to pos­i­tively influ­ence the client.

The qual­ity of olive oil as well, and how you com­mu­ni­cate it, is cru­cial. The restau­ra­teur must have a good knowl­edge of the raw mate­r­ial and be able to appre­ci­ate its qual­i­ties before they can help the cus­tomer get a richer culi­nary expe­ri­ence,” said Dimas.

Dimas’ com­pany and some oth­ers had vol­un­tar­ily adopted the sealed non-refill­able olive oil bot­tle before its use was made manda­tory by the new rule. A prod­uct that is con­sid­ered to be the liq­uid gold for Greece should be adver­tised in every way. It is a shame that some­thing we should have already done on our own is treated as a legal oblig­a­tion.”

That is, we are view­ing the new reg­u­la­tion for sealed olive oil bot­tles in restau­rants in the same way as the smok­ing ban, the law that made seat-belt or hel­mets an oblig­a­tion,” said Dimas, who cre­ated a pri­vate label for the olive oil bot­tles in his restau­rant.

As to the cost of his sealed olive oil bot­tle, Dimas accepts that it is high, while explain­ing that he has cho­sen not to charge con­sumers for its price. It’s a dif­fi­cult deci­sion, in tough times. The response of the pub­lic is very pos­i­tive, espe­cially in our restau­rant at Sindagma Square at the cen­ter of Athens, where the pub­lic is largely made up of tourists. Customers have begun to ask for the small bot­tle of olive oil on their own.”


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