Most of the revenue being generated at restaurants can be directly attributed to spending through government vouchers, the Association for Catering Establishments (ACE) has said. 

The government announced on June 8 that every person over 16 years and residing in Malta would receive a €100 voucher to be spent at establishments that had closed throughout the partial lockdown, as part of its post-COVID-19 economic recovery plan. 

Over 340,000 people were eligible to receive the vouchers.

During a membership survey carried out two weeks ago, ACE found that 60 per cent of res-pondents said the majority of their revenue had come through people spending their government vouchers, while a number of restaurants in the south of the island said they attributed close to 80 per cent of their earnings to the vouchers. 

The vouchers, ACE said, had proven to be crucial in allowing restaurants to remain open.

“It’s clear that this initiative had a positive knock-on effect for business,” ACE secretary Matthew Pace told Times of Malta. 

A positive knock-on effect

“There is some concern on what the situation will look like when the vouchers are no longer in play, but that remains to be seen.” 

Pace also noted that amending the guidelines to allow smoking in outdoor catering establishments had also seen a positive reaction from patrons.

“The majority of establishments are abiding by the health authorities’ guidelines and this is creating a certain feel-good factor with customers,” Pace said.

“When they see restaurant staff wearing masks, socially-distanced seating arrangements and sanitisation stations, clients are definitely at ease and more comfortable dining out as opposed to frequenting other sorts of venues.” 

ACE said the sector was still experiencing difficulties due to increased costs related to COVID-19 measures, reduced sales and fear of infection – however members expressed their gratitude for the government initiative, which they say was crucial to saving thousands of jobs in the industry. 

“ACE encourages government to open discussions for other measures in order to prepare for the difficult months ahead,” a statement said.

“With the experience of vouchers and wage supplements one can create even more positive stimulus for both local and tourist consumer consumption.

“In order to improve the situation even further within the catering sector, one of the largest in the Maltese economy, ACE recommends an accelerated implementation of rent and utility schemes.”

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