Restaurants and bars have been left devastated by COVID-19 worldwide, but some people still believed the time was right to acquire a catering license over the past year.
Figures provided by the Malta Tourism Authority to Lovin Malta show that 36 new restaurant licenses, 60 new snack bar licenses, and four new bar licenses were issued between March 2020 and March 2021.
This was partially offset by the two restaurant licenses, 12 snack bar licenses, and five bar licenses which were canceled during this period, which means a net total of 81 new licenses were issued.
These figures should in no way be interpreted as a suggestion that more restaurants opened than closed their doors since COVID-19 hit the islands.
Licenses are held by owners of catering establishments, and since many restaurants and bars rent out their premises, landlords can choose to keep the license until a new tenant enters.
However, the figures do indicate that some people still believe they can start doing business in this industry despite the pandemic woes.
Overall though, restaurants have suffered greatly over the past year, forced to completely shut their doors to everything but deliveries and takeaways twice, spend more money on new COVID-19 measures, and limit the number of customers who can dine at any given moment.
And even though several people are ordering deliveries, restaurants have to pay significant commissions to third parties, sometimes as high as 30%.
“Basically, the commission paid by restaurants is around 30%: at a time when, as I said before, revenue is already down by 90%,” Matthew Pace, secretary of the Association of Catering Establishments, told MaltaToday in a recent interview.
“That doesn’t leave any room for any profit whatsoever. So when restaurants use those services – especially, the smaller, stand-alone ones – it is not ‘for profit’. They do it for two reasons, basically: to keep their brand alive; and to keep a little cash turning over.”
“Then there are the bigger chains – with three, four, maybe five restaurants – and those are in a position to negotiate down to, say, 20 or 23%. That might leave room for a margin of profit, but… it’s still a giant chunk of an already depleted revenue-stream.”
“The situation, to be honest, is that we are fighting for crumbs.”
Do you think there’s hope for Malta’s catering industry amidst a pandemic?