Boasting that his fast food chain of restaurants “have never sent home workers”, Managing Director Ryan Haloute today said Chefette Restaurants was not about to begin cutting staff even though Government’s contentious National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) would prove a burden.
In addition, Haloute vowed that his prices would not rise, at least for the time being, despite the levy, increases in the excise duties on petrol and the imposition of a two per cent tax on foreign exchange transactions, the latter beginning to take effect from July 17.
The local business community has complained that the NSRL, which jumped from two per cent to ten per cent effective July 1, along with the other measures, would hurt business and would likely force closures and job cuts.
However, Haloute today made it clear he was not among those planning to sever staff, despite the inevitable rise in the cost of doing business.
“I have never sent home workers to my knowledge. We don’t do that at all. Even when our landlord at Fairchild [Street, The City] wanted the space for offices, we absorbed the staff into our [other] locations. So we try to do everything we can. It is a last resort, so we have no plans to send home staff,” he said following the presentation of a $125,000 cheque to three local charities – the Young Women Christian Association, Precious Touch Foundation and the Variety Children’s Charity – at the company’s corporate headquarters in Wildey, St Michael.
Revealing that prices had not risen over the past six years, with some exceptions, the Chefette boss said the fast food chain would absorb the new taxes, although he left the door open for a change of heart.
“For right now we have not carried up any of our prices, and we have no set date for when we will carry up [the prices]. We always try to hold our prices for as long as we can. Our prices right now, besides two specials which we increased earlier in the year, have remained the same for the past six years.
“It [NSRL] will impact everybody as it is increased cost, but we will keep doing what we are doing. We will keep marketing and
. . . [maintain] great customer service and quality food, as that is our goal,” Haloute insisted.
It was in his May 30, 2017 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals that Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler announced the dramatic increase in the NSRL, in addition to the other tax measures, as he seeks ways to plug a gaping $500 million economic hole.
With the country’s foreign exchange deficit at a dangerously low 10.7 weeks of import cover as at the end of March this year – a long way below the recommended 14 weeks – Haloute dismissed any thoughts of his company investing outside Barbados in a bid to cushion the impact of the taxes.
He said now was the time to keep the money within Barbados.
“We have no immediate plans for that and right now. We feel that with how the economy is going, we feel that this is the time to reinvest in your country locally, not to go and take your funds and send it overseas, which would be contradictory to what the Government is asking of the businesses. They want people to spend money here [and] keep foreign exchange here
. . . . So right now, we do not think that we will even entertain that thought. Right now, we are investing here and keeping our staff employed and doing our part to keep our country proud,” the Chefette executive said.