Restaurant owners are reporting a worrying increase in company Christmas events, as the recent uptick in COVID cases prompts businesses to avoid large gatherings.

With the number of active COVID cases now over 2,000 and the daily update regularly adding hundreds more, reached out to restaurants typically popular for such staff parties to find out how this is impacting the regular seasonal peak.

Julian Sammut, director of Kitchen Concepts

Julian Sammut, Director of Kitchen Concepts, which brings together popular local restaurants Chophouse, Cuba, Gululu, Manakis and Vecchia Napoli, immediately answers: “Very bad. Disastrous really.”

He explains that most events have been cancelled, with large ones of over a hundred people being the first to be cancelled.

He explains that smaller groups are also concerned, with several also making cancellations.

Meanwhile, Head Chef and owner of the popular St Julian’s establishment Crust Deli Bakery summed up the situation as “thousands of euro going down the drain”.

He says that many firms have cancelled their staff parties

Acknowledging the challenging nature of the period, Mr Gravina admits that any action “is a knife that cuts both ways”.

Head Chef Sean Gravina

Standing by previous statements calling for a relaxation of restrictive measures, he expresses his belief that “nothing is going to stop this seasonal spread”.

Echoing comments made earlier this month, Mr Gravina says that the increase in cases over the winter should have been expected, and should be expected in the coming years.

“The number will continue increasing over the winter and go back down in summer. Why are we running away from admitting that this is the reality?”

Businesses, he said, need to plan for the future, and if the pressure is coming not from the new variant but rather due to the virus’s seasonal nature and the fear of an overload of hospital services, it is time that the authorities see how to deal with the situation.

“Despite all the restrictions, all the sacrifices, all the efforts we’ve made to control the spread, all the investments to comply with all the health protocols, at the end of the day, this virus continues to have a direct effect on businesses, including mine.”

Mr Sammut concurs, warning that the next months will be “really tough” for restaurants, especially those for whom tourists make up a large portion of the clientele.

“Unfortunately, there are no clear solutions,” he says. “January and February will likely be worse – so the wage supplement will definitely need an extension.”

Concluding, the Kitchen Concepts director warns against seeing restaurants as a sector all on its own.

“It’s all a chain. If our clients are sick or fearful, we suffer. If we suffer, our suppliers will suffer. And if the people and different businesses are suffering, the authorities will too.”

Several companies cancel staff gatherings over recent spike in cases can confirm that several large companies due to have their annual staff gatherings this week, prior to shut-down or before they break off for the Christmas and New Year period, chose to cancel their event.

Examples of this include big-four audit firms PwC and Deloitte, legal firm Camilleri Preziosi, M. Demajo Group (which spans manufacturing, hospitality, corporate services and business-to-business services), and Inlingua Language School.

Several employers who spoke to but preferred not to be named said that staff members began to feel uncomfortable to gather due to the recent spike in cases.

Other smaller companies chose to allow separate departments to gather, while one particular company, Miller Distributors, employed some well-timed forward thinking by choosing to have their staff gathering at the beginning of the month, when case numbers were fewer and people were not socialising as much.

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