The Chief Executive Officer (CEO), of the Trinidad Hotels, Restaurants & Tourism Association (THRTA), Brian Frontin does not believe that the incident with D’Original Sauce Doubles (Sauce) over the past weekend played a role in the government’s decision to shut down restaurants.
Speaking on CNC3’s the Morning Brew, Frontin remarked: “I don’t think that is the way a government will process that decision and I’ll explain why.”
Frontin argued that there are two major casualties from a decision to close restaurants; employers and employees- and they have been impacted since March 16.
Frontin noted: “I think sometimes we’re not thinking through how many thousands of persons are employed directly in the food and beverage sector, in respect of restaurants across the board.”
He noted that the Government’s decision to close these institutions until April 30, would have been made, taking into account the impact on the employees. Frontin also indicated that the business viability of these companies and whether they would be there as employers post COVID-19 in T&T’s landscape would have also been considered. Due to severe impacts, Frontin expressed that it would be remiss of him to try to link the Sauce incident with the subsequent closure of restaurants. “I would really not want to believe that that is the motive behind this decision.”
The food and beverage sector, said Frontin, has been decimated and eroded over the last two to three weeks and is going to experience this harsh reality for further two weeks until April 30. Frontin also indicated that he believes people don’t understand the value chain of the industry. He mentioned that there is the food supplier side and the farmer side of the value chain. Those two key components that regularly will supply input into the food preparation process will not be able pass food items along, said Frontin.
The THRTA CEO said that his appeal did not come from a place of preferring one sector over the other, but indicated that the decisions made by the government in order to save lives from COVID-19 have a really widespread knock-on impact. Frontin posited that the question on the mind of those in the industry is: “At what time do we begin to put into the public arena, conversations on timelines?”
Although he understood that these predictions are difficult to make because of the nature of the situation, employers and owners of restaurants need to plan on how they are going to negotiate with the bank and utilities. According to Frontin, each restaurant and establishment have different sorts of funding and operating programs, which will be the key determinant on who survives and who doesn’t.