Network News

Home News Network News Is eating out affordable?

Who to contact

Have a question?

Network News • 01-12-2022

Is eating out affordable?

Author: George Mangion - Senior Partner PKF Malta
Published on Business Today: 1st December 2022

This is a time to visualise lavish end-of-year parties, yet due to the high cost, less people book places at restaurants for merriment. Understandably, it is becoming the norm in the corporate world for management to skip the grand parties but as a hospitality treat provide staff with free food and drink on the business premises with paper hats for all. Watch out for the solemn speeches about the business and the rising pangs of inflation on imported merchandise and extolling strategies for belt tightening and higher productivity next year.

This may sound solemn, yet junior staff do not give a toss about tomorrow. They dutifully indulge in extra drink, teasing their mates while singing and sporting party hats. It is all free. In the recent past, when masks were de rigueur, hugs and handshakes at workplaces were permitted – now the mood is more cautious and mostly formal. Most miss the Christmas fare and long for the popular custom when in-laws were invited to lavish meals in-house enjoying eating slow-cooking treats endowed with plum puddings and other delicacies – a gazillion calorie dessert. Will our partners and loved ones advise us to give up, throw the kitchen towel and instead surf our smartphone to book for outside catering?

Now with instant ordering online of fast yet tasty delivered food delivered by platform boys riding motorbikes risking their lives maneuvering dangerously in heavy traffic. With such convenience, most will never dream to let wives and girlfriends cook for the occasion let alone plan a party. Imagine, a time not long ago, when preparing a glorious full scale Christmas meal takes a back-bending 27 hours to prepare.

Nostalgia of Christmas eve fun reminds us of sweet memories – like waking up at 6.00am only to discover that the fat turkey doesn’t fit in the oven or that the asparagus are not fresh? Why not venture to a traditional farmhouse restaurant where hearty meals are served by smiling waitresses with tinsels in their hair. For the purists, the lure of home cooking is immeasurable such that it goes without saying that the carving and serving of the triumphant turkey bordered with red chipolata sausages and impregnated with the famous sage and chestnut stuffing – becomes by rite the honorary task regaled to the head of family. This romantic scene is a bygone memory – perhaps never to return.

Today, it’s rare to find a good restaurant which can guarantee a table given the high demand and fewer table settings because of restrictions enforced by Health authorities. Perhaps our nostalgia owes its roots to the Victorian age having been a British colony for so many years. In this fast world of Netflix dinners, we lost the pathos of the breadwinner, siting proudly at the head of the table, acting out the role of the paterfamilias — the Dickensian icon set in the Christmas carol novel — judiciously dividing among his grateful family, the bounty that his toil and acumen have provided. Such memories from the past form the liturgical objects of our Christian beliefs that have honed our subconscious during past festive periods. Such gatherings in our jaded memory quenched on 5G networks – conjure forgotten feelings of a convivial spirit.

Food is being served in swanky joints but alas the nuclear family is absent. No more, the sentiment of staying at home and toiling in the kitchen for so many hours that gave the chef a deep satisfaction seeing many smiling faces around the decorated table. Serving a homemade Christmas dinner can be a thing of Dickensian fantasy, as modern versions seem to have gone through some kind of transmogrification machine that lead us to cherish their currency. Perhaps, this introverted feeling is shared with all that fear the incremental cost of food is becoming unassailable.

Pensioners, youths and middle-aged people complain that inflation is hitting the roof. Many notice food and grocery costs are spiralling upwards. This is hurting everyone much more than ever before. It comes as no surprise that both the Chamber of Commerce and the Malta Chamber of SMEs have spoken with huge concern about the projected increases in the cost of imports and exports due to our insularity. Even so, it is the sign of times as in the U.S. inflation is currently above eight per cent while it is over eleven per cent in Britain.

Not a moment too soon, finance Minister Clyde Caruana has dutifully in his budget announced a separate mechanism to compensate society’s most needy for the rising cost of living. Sources said the new mechanism is separate and over-and-above the cost-of-living adjustment mechanism where those who feel the pinch of rising costs can be compensated separately. Back to the main theme of festivities and let us try riding on the bandwagon of past joyful memories.

Not so quick. A lavish lunch for Christmas in a posh restaurant does not come cheap for those on a tight budget-their options are limited. Still, some decide to throw caution to the wind and forget cholesterol levels by going on the cheap ride drinking Prosecco at an affordable pizzeria, where simple pleasures include gorging on a dome shaped Calzone, deliciously filled with an exquisite cheese mix, ham and truffle oil – all baked in a wood-fired oven. The treat will be followed by chocolate covered profiteroles or liquid mint ice cream solidified with liquid nitrogen.

Definitely in this Russian war, the option to book lunch outside is tempting yet sobriety make us act cautious as our budgets are tight. Readers may well lament that simple pleasures in life are burning holes in their credit cards. Is it fair for locals to pay the high vat rate on food and drink when other neighbouring countries are charging lower rates? The trophy goes to Luxembourg as it charges a rate of 3% on food and 17% on alcoholic beverages. Now that the tourism industry is limping forward with higher occupancy rates, can we follow Greece’s bold experiment in 2013 and drop the vat rate to 7%.

This article argues that over-charging vat is like burning the candle from both ends and will cause the catering sector to implode if remedial action is not taken to tackle challenges lurking under the surface. In conclusion, this is the time of year when most restaurants resort to decorate in glittery kitsch reflecting a wonderful thing – if only a lower vat tax is charged on our restaurant meals.

Author: George Mangion - Senior Partner PKF Malta
Published on Business Today: 1st December 2022
Get in touch:

See more Network News items