Maltese restaurant sentiment boosts, labour shortage casts shadows

(source: Unsplash/Ivan Stern)

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Malta’s local restaurant business sentiment appears to be “cautiously optimistic”, chiefly boosted by a quickly expanding economic environment and dragged down by lurking labour shortage and infrastructure challenges, PwC Malta’s Market Barometer carried out during the last quarter of last year reveals.

Over 100 restaurateurs participated in PwC’s market research during Q4 2018. Some 48% of the participants talked about an increase in business as compared to 2017, in contrast to 23% who registered a decrease in activity and 29% who reported of stable commercial levels, PwC has found.

“The sentiment emanating from the barometer corresponds to an economic landscape that has experienced an increase in disposable income and a marked growth in population, that has also brought with it the challenges in terms of resources and infrastructure,” says David Valenzia, PwC Territory Senior Partner. “The evolving channels of customer interaction and demands is a further challenge that the industry needs to adapt to and invest in,” he adds.

Restaurants in the St Julian’s area reported a 76% increase in business, the southern part of Malta saw a rise of 63%, while the central area lagged behind with a growth of only 25%, figures by the PwC show.

Labour shortage casts shadows on market

The industry appears to have adopted a slightly more negative outlook recently. As compared to 2016, when 71% of the respondents talked about a positive outlook, in 2018 only 51% said they anticipated positive times approaching in the next half a year. However, outright pessimism was also on the decrease. While in 2016 some 18% held a negative outlook, in 2018 the ratio dropped to 16%, according to PwC.

Unsurprisingly, the sector voiced concern about finding an adequate supply of skilled resources in 2018, which is similar to what PwC found in 2016, even if figures appear to have been dropping. Out of the respondents, 35% identified the availability of skilled resources as their leading business concern in 2018, while in 2016, a significant 63% of the industry had identified human resources as the principal business concern.

PwC’s findings suggest that the drop of the aforementioned figure was chiefly due to the engagement of foreign nationals, although only 25% of the respondents think that the sole strategy of recruitment of foreign nationals should be pursued.

For fighting challenges posed by the shortage of skilled labour, 38% of the respondents said that the industry needs to come together and increase the financial package to its employees, with a view of making a career in hospitality more enticing, PwC says. A further 37% urges policymakers and educational and vocational institutions to position employment in the hospitality industry as a more attractive job opportunity.

An increasing emphasis on infrastructure accompanies the growing demand. Some 53% of the operators in the industry believe that the level of investment in not commensurate to the recent surge in tourists volumes. This sentiment, at 88%, is more acute through restauranteurs who operate in the south of Malta, PwC added.

The whole report including charts and visual representation of data is available for view at the official webpage of PwC Malta.