The instinct this first week was to write about the ‘out-of-the blue’ announcement that three well known restaurants trading under the company name, CHAPS Restaurants Ltd, Cin Cin by the Sea, Primo and Hugo’s had closed with immediate effect.
However, fortunately good sense prevailed, without first listening to every available angle of the story. Cheryl Newman, owner and operator of the highly successful Champers while on the Down to Brass Tacks programme, offered quite a different perspective on the problems outlined by the Chief Executive Officer of CHAPS.
In the interests of accurate reporting, I tried a company ‘search’ on the website of the Corporate and Intellectual Property Office (CAIPO) for CHAPS Restaurants Ltd, however after several attempts that proved futile.
The Offshore Leaks Database revealed four listed directors and a registered office address, but did not mention a previously quoted ‘major shareholder’, who was also described as a ‘leading racehorse owner’, co-owner of a share trading company and that for several years had a property on Barbados.
The British Daily Mail identified Andy Stewart as a ‘city grandee and multi-millionaire Cenkos founder’. We are led to believe that in fact, one of the restaurants was named after his grandson.
What can we learn from this unfortunate episode?
Well, as an absolute prerequisite, ‘we’ cannot allow ever again, 149 employees to be terminated at minutes or without notice, soon after they wake up on a Monday morning.
Secondly, it is far overdue that stand-alone restaurants are continually treated as the poorer relations to those hotels that operate in-house ones in terms of taxation and duty-free concessions.
Once this inequity is finally rectified, our independent restaurants will have absolutely no excuse not to reflect the considerable savings in their final price point. Minister of Economic Affairs and Investment, Marsha Caddle indicated that this was being reviewed and perhaps better measured by the foreign exchange each establishment generates, if I understand her comments accurately. It would appear that this can easily be tracked through credit card transactions, just as Government currently levy a 2 per cent tax on overseas purchases which are made domestically, through this method of payment.
From all indications, the vast majority of our visitors are responding to what they perceive as high prices or not receiving actual value-for-money.
The irony is that prior to one of the CHAPS restaurants being closed for renovations over a very prolonged period, under its former name Pisces, was one of the most successful members of the re-DISCOVER dining initiative.
While not currently a restaurant partner in this promotion, Champers offers an excellent fixed priced menu, at a far more affordable cost, which is seemingly popular with both locals and visitors.
While some of our tourism players may linger under the delusion that every visitor is high-end with an unlimited budget. The cold hard reality is that with the explosion of alternative accommodation and increased air access over the last decade, that fallacy is now a distant dream.
I keep returning to the simple concept that many of our restaurateurs fail to understand, the concept of revenue control. Better to entice a segment of our visitors and locals alike, with an early table booking at a reasonable price, which can be resold later in the evening, than leave that space unoccupied and not contributing to overall operating costs.