Association of Catering Establishments: Lack of tourists and table social distancing the main contributors to the financial problems of restaurants

Catering establishments want lower utilities rates as well as measures to attract more clients. 

In a meeting ahead of this month’s Budget, the Association of Catering Establishments on Wednesday met with Prime Minister Robert Abela.

Association head Reuben Buttigieg laid out a series of proposals to help keep the catering sector afloat during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Buttigieg said the minimum distance between tables should be lowered to allow more patrons to be served. Establishments are having to turn customers away, while in other countries measures had been adopted that were more business-friendly. 

Buttigieg said that, if necessary, perspex could be used to encase tables, to lower the chance of the virus spreading. 

The association is also calling for incentives for landlords to encourage them to agree to a 40% drop in rents for catering establishments. With diminished sales, many were struggling to make rent, Buttigieg said. 

It’s been a tough year for the sector, Buttigieg said. After registering year-on-year growth, the pandemic had hit the industry hard. 

However, the measures introduced by the government had helped keep many businesses’ heads above water. 

Buttigieg said the wage supplement programme had helped save jobs in bars and restaurants across the country. 

The popular €100 vouchers had accounted for the lion’s share of sales for many catering establishments that may have had to pull down their shutters without them. 

On his part, Abela said the government was committed to keeping unemployment down and wanted to help businesses survive the pandemic. 

The association’s proposals, he said, were positive and would be considered ahead of the budget. 

The rest of the meeting, which included Economy Minister Silvio Schembri and Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli, was held behind closed doors.