Restaurants battle to survive

The coronavirus pandemic is not just a threat to people's health. For many businesses across the nation, the lockdown is threatening their very survival.

In the restaurant industry for example, owners and operators whom the Samoa Observer interviewed expressed fears about the future given the limited operating hours and the restrictions as part of the state of emergency (S.O.E.).

All the businesses support the S.O.E. in a bid to protect the country. But they are finding the going extremely tough.

The Owner of Georgie’s Pizza and Car Rental said the lockdown has had an enormous impact on their finances.

“For an example, if our normal takings for the day is $10,000, we’re now earning only half of that amount,” he said. 

“That’s how big of an impact we’re experiencing right now.

 “For our car rental itself, it’s standing on the edge right now and the restaurant is also losing big tine.”

The cancellation of events like birthdays, office parties and other gatherings where the pizza place normally makes its money has not helped.

Mau’u said they have had to lay off five employees while the remaining employees have had their working hours reduced.

But the businessman understands and supports the S.O.E.

 “We stopped taking inside orders ahead of the lockdown and even my children were stopped from going to school before the lockdown because we care for the safety of our people more,” he said.

Mau’u doesn’t know what the future holds but he is positive that although it's going to be hard, they will push through.

At Pinati Restaurant, the impact of the lockdown, where people are no longer allowed to dine in, has been huge.

“Of course as you have observed in the front, we’re only doing takeaways now and the number of customers are not the same anymore,” a member of the restaurant's management said.

Like other businesses, the reduction in business has meant reduced hours for workers. They have also had to cut other daily expenses just to stay afloat.

At the Food Court at Savalalo, the 10 small restaurants inside expressed similar views. They’re all required to pay $1,300 a month for the rent excluding other expenses on the cooking gases, cash-power and food supplies.

Paulo Lemisio, Owner of Papa Fine’s restaurant, said their customers prefer to dine in.

 “At the moment, the only takeaways we hope for are ministries and those big organisations that order a lot.

“The only reason why we’re still coming because we’ve paid the rent and we cannot just sit home and stop running the restaurant while we’ve already paid the rent.”

For Mr. Lemisio, his wife and children, their restaurant is their only source of income.

 “We’ve built our way from being penniless to this small restaurant we’re running so we just hope we don’t experience [something] even worse than this kind of experience,” he said.

The owner of Fryer’s Delicacy, who did not want to be identified, said it is getting harder and harder everyday.

“It’s like we’re just coming here to sit and cook. We’d be lucky if at least two customers knock on our counter for a takeaway order,” she said.

Similar views were expressed by the owners of the other restaurants in the area.

Earlier this month the Chamber of Commerce said it had yet to raise the prospect of an economic stimulus package with the Government admist the global coronavirus-led downturn. 

But this week a private letter from the Samoa National Provident Fund contained proposals to the Ministry of Finance to deliver financial relief to its members. 

The measures had yet to be approved but the Fund's chief, Pauli Prince Suhren, wrote that they were intended to be part of an overall finance sector assistance scheme to safeguard and sustain the economy.



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