Flanders' cafés disappearing as 1 in 3 closes in 10 years

The number of cafés in Flanders has fallen by a third in 10 years, De Standaard reports on Friday.

Research company Locatus says the number has dropped by 32.2 per cent since 2013, a loss of 2,739 cafés, or about one every working day. The region now only has 5,763 cafés.

Sandra Timmerman, president of the Horeca Vlaanderen Bruges branch association, sees many reasons why the number continues to decline. "The profit margins for those who only sell drinks are getting smaller," she said. "It isn't easy to find staff. At the same time, people find that going to bars has become expensive and are looking for cheaper alternatives."

"Customers want that extra experience"

Timmerman also says the smoking ban, stricter alcohol controls and expensive taxis discourage people from going out, while summer bars increase competition. She says the city council gives these bars more freedom to offer customers different experiences. "The cafés on Het Zand in Bruges, for example, aren't allowed to bring in a truckload of sand to create a Mediterranean atmosphere. Customers want that extra experience."

Erik De Rop, owner of Café de Bardot on the Oude Markt in Leuven, puts the decline down to the fact there are more ways to spend time and other ways to meet people today.

"When I was young, on a Saturday evening, you could choose between watching a film, going to the café or going to a dance club," he told De Standaard. "Now there are many more alternatives for spending the evening. You can also meet people through social media or dating apps."

To stay afloat, more cafés are also serving food. "The profit margin on food is higher," said hospitality consultant Evert Thys. "It"s also easier to pass on the higher costs. There are many formulas where you can offer meals that don't require much extra work, such as finger food. More and more coffee bars are taking over the social role that the café used to have."


#FlandersNewsService | Oude Markt in Leuven © PHOTO BELPRESS

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