restaurant tables

The controversial yet much anticipated reopening of restaurants to sit down diners arrived last Monday, and with establishments now having a week of post-pandemic experience behind them, the feel good factor is strong, although concerns exist about restrictions and outdoor space

Daniel Grech, the owner and chef behind the Burgers Ink concept, called the reopening a “breath of fresh air”.

“We really enjoyed it,” he says, “things are finally looking better.”

He agrees with the Government’s plan to reopen slowly, in staggered steps, saying this caution extends also to diners, who he notes are being a lot more cautious in their bheaviour.

Looking to the future, he believes that the future is “very bright”, and called on everyone, restaurateurs, staff and patrons alike to be patient as the industry awaits a full reopening.

Gzira Lebanese restaurant Ali Baba proprietor Hany Harb was similarly happy to be back at work and hopeful about the future, saying that the first week “wasn’t bad” in terms of lunches.

“We suffer a bit as we don’t have outdoor space,” he explains. “People look for outdoor dining for lunch in this weather, so we’re at a disadvantage.”

Asked about how the week went for his business, Mr Harb says that it was “not good, not bad”, putting this down to the massive amount of restaurants which all reopened at the same time.

“Every restaurant has its client base,” he says, “so the market of willing diners was split across a large variety of restaurants.”

Although he admits that he does not have a lot of bookings in place for this week, he expresses his gratitude to be back in his place at Ali Baba, saying that whatever may come, “at least we’ve opened”.

For businesses like The Flora, a Chinese, Thai and Japanese eatery with establishments in Qawra and Mosta, that do not serve lunch during the week, the much-awaited reopening did not leave much of an impact.

“It was basically the same for us as we don’t open for weekday lunch,” explains a representative. “It was essentially business as usual.”

On the other hand, Valletta restaurant La Sfoglia reported a very good week, with owner Oswald Caruana putting it down to the fact that people are “sick and tired of being inside”.

He describes the situation as “if you had people locked in and then you suddenly opened the door – there’s been a big rush.”

However, Mr Caruana called for more action by the authorities to revise the existing restrictions placed on catering establishments, saying that the rule stipulating the maximum number of people on a table to be four was a “big problem”.

“Often, families are seven or eight people, with kids or siblings, and groups of colleagues typically number more, as well.”

He says that the decrease in stipulated distance between one table to another in interior spaces was much welcome, and called for this decreased limit to be extended to outdoor spaces as well.

He also warned that the current situation was not sustainable, with the heat only setting in harder the more time passes.

“You can forget busy lunches once summer really gets going,” he says.

“But it’s very good that we opened, and the response for us has been great.”

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