THE government’s announcement that all restaurants must close from Tuesday morning is the right one, albeit somewhat sudden, say franchise holders of some of the country’s most popular fast foods.
Speaking with Newsday after the Prime Minister’s media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, on Monday, at least two franchise owners of popular restaurants said they were not surprised or opposed to the latest policy to combat covid19.
Mario Sabga-Aboud, chairman of the Global Brands Group of Companies, said, “I think it was a little short notice, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. It was the right move to make.
“I just thought we could have gotten an extra day or two notice, instead of panicking and rushing today.”
Global Brands employs about 1,100 staff at over 120 Rituals, Pizza Boys, Church’s Chicken, Wok n Roll and Donut Boys franchise units at nearly 70 different food malls.
Sabga-Aboud said while he wasn’t particularly blindsided by the announcement, at least one additional day’s notice would have helped restaurants prepare better for the inevitable closure.
It raises the obvious question of whether there are now impending job cuts, but Sabga-Aboud said his group of companies “has not looked down that road yet.
“We will re-evaluate at the end of the month,” he said. “I feel very positive, and I think once we have this under control, we’ll be able to continue where we left off and put this all behind us.”
He said the group is working out a stipend for all staff, at least for the next month.
Additionally, staff will be allowed to take home perishables that would have otherwise been dumped, he said.
“Whatever is left back tonight, all the produce, everything that will waste, we’re giving it out to all our employees to take home – meats, chicken, whatever we can’t keep.”
Over the past several weeks, with the pandemic escalating, he said there had been a drastic dip in revenue.
“We’ve dropped almost 70 per cent. Sales have dropped drastically.
“At least there was an income. And it was very expensive to keep (them) open but we had to keep going,” he said. “We have to be strong now and strong for everybody.”
Daniel Fakoory, the franchise holder for Pita Pit and Domino’s, employers of about 175 people, was not surprised by the announcement either.
Fakoory said, “We are in communication with all our franchise holders across the Caribbean and the region, and these are some of the same measures that most of those other islands have encountered.
“So these restrictions, as they have been progressively building up, we has anticipated, at some point, either this or a curfew are going to be called.
“It’s unfortunate for us and our operations, but if it’s for the greater good of the country, we have to play our part. We are committed to maintaining most of our staffing as much as possible, especially the ones who have been with us the longest. The company is committed to subsidising and taking that loss.”
Compensation packages, he said, have been arranged for the franchises’ managers and staff members, “to at least hold them through to the end of April.”
Among the arrangements are paying the staff in advance for their outstanding vacation.
But, he said, “There are staff members who recently joined the company that don’t benefit from those entitlements.”
The franchises are working with the government to access relief packages for them. This he said, accounts for 30-40 per cent of its workforce.
“Many of our landlords have been negotiable and flexible during this time. it’s a nationwide issue and every single industry and sector is being affected.”
Fakoory said although Pita Pit has been operating at a lower level during the pandemic, Domino’s had been at a “decent” level, because of its delivery service.
“So we were stocked up, we had our chillers full. Even if we anticipated this happening this week or next week, we always have to have a full stock in hand because of the nature of the business,” he said, estimating the losses in the tens of thousands.
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