Operators of small restaurants in Barbados may have to resort to selling their products out of vehicles if the economic downturn continues indefinitely.
That grim warning has been issued by Managing Director of Pizza Man Doc, Gray “Doc” Brome, following the closure of some restaurants on Baxters Road, the City, and the slowdown in business at one popular restaurant at the same location.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Brome said he had grave concerns about the dramatic decline in business over the past seven years.
“Selling your product out of a mobile van may be the safest way out of this harsh economic situation, but it is an area (that has) strict government regulations,” he said.
“Even when you adhere to strict business practices, businesses are still failing. I recall that in the recent past a business that is located close to my outlet on Baxters Road was attracting a large number of customers, but this has changed over the past two to three years,” he added.
“When you have to pay $6,000 per month for a few square feet, then you have to pay for water, electricity, gas, wages, pay VAT and National Insurance contributions, there is nothing left for the business owner. The owner has to be constantly borrowing money to keep the business going. Then, in addition to these financial challenges, you have situations where workers report sick almost everyday.
“When a worker reports sick then it takes two to three workers to serve the purpose of one. It becomes a tremendous financial burden, but if you are vending it only takes one or two persons to fulfil your labour requirements.”
He said overheads were crippling small businesses in Barbados.
“Government seems to be working diligently to ensure there is no further deterioration in the business sector [but] small restaurants are just propping up a few major wholesalers. A small business cannot survive on that basis.”
Brome, who established his first pizza outlet in St Peter in the 1980s, pointed out that some restaurants were not even able to make a bank deposit from the daily takings, and use the funds to replenish the company’s stock.
“It is extremely difficult in the current economic environment. Unless a number of us buy stock in bulk to cut costs we are doomed. The commercial banking sector will have to place a little more confidence in the sector if we are to ease ourselves out of this financial bind. The situation that confronts the sector can only be termed a crippling,” Brome contended.
Referring to the recent closure of a popular restaurant on the south coast of the island, Brome said: “I do not believe that the owner of the outlet on the south coast was spreading untruths when he said he was unable to pay the severed workers their severance pay. Neither do I believe he took the money and squandered it. I do not know the man, but I know I do not live lavishly, yet finance remains a major challenge to my business. People who live in close proximity to my outlet on Baxters Road do not have the disposable income to patronize the business on a regular basis. I can also tell you that people have resorted to begging today because they cannot do any better.”
Brome pointed out that if “push comes to shove”, he would return to selling products from out of a mobile van.
Recently, he closed some of his outlets in the Satjay Bridgetown Centre, the City and St Lawrence, Christ Church; however, he has since re-employed some of the workers in other outlets.