A quarter of restaurants risk closure, survey suggests

Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

A survey carried out by the Association of Catering Establishments suggests that over a quarter of local restaurants are considering closing their establishment in the face of a drop of sales and unsustainable costs.

While 26.3% of survey respondents said that they were considering closure, only 23% were confident that they would remain open: approximately 42% were adopting a wait and see approach.

In the survey, 23% of restaurateurs also confirmed that they will be dismissing some or all of their employees, while a further 45.3% were not sure they would be able to retain their staff complement. 60% of establishments also reported that they have reduced their opening hours in the face of a drop of sales.

ACE observed that while the wage supplement originally helped the industry survive in the midst of the pandemic, it was not working in a way which sustained an industry known for a high turnover of employees. As it stands, new hires are not eligible for wage supplements, even if they were hired to replace departing staff.

On average, the association said, less than 35% of catering establishment employees were eligible for wage supplements, forcing restaurateurs to finance the remaining two-thirds in spite of months of low sales.

It thus called on the government to ensure that those employed after 9 March should also receive a wage supplement to avoid a “major disaster” in the sector. It also insisted that the wage supplement should go back to its original form at the peak of the pandemic.

The association recognised that the Budget 2021 measures in the outset were very positive, but their implementation did not seem to be adequate, urging the government to act fast to saveguard the sector.

But it also called for a revision to social distancing, deeming this fundamental in colder months when outdoor dining is less of a viable option.