Hospitality industry welcomes extended trading hours
After weeks of mandated lockdowns restricting domestic travel, trading hours and imposing social distancing to control the community spread of Covid-19, Samoa’s business sector welcomed government’s announcement on 2nd May to continue Level 2 with major changes including extending business hours and lifting the ban on mass gatherings.
As expected, the business community suffered another major hit from the nationwide lockdown forcing employers to put many of their staff on unpaid leave.
General Manager of Taumeasina Island Resort, Tuiataga Nathan Bucknall said it was a relief for the hospitality industry, which relies on the heavy traffic from the dinner rush and social events as their main source of income, when government extended trading hours.
“The curfew on the roads made it difficult to get staff to and from work. We still had our long term guests, and we still needed to cater to all of those people who were in house,” said Tuiataga.” For people who worked the night shift, the 8pm shut-off was a bit too early and closing restaurants at the time was hard because the domestic market like to sit down and enjoy their meals, not be restrained by time limits. Now, we can open our buffets and offer dining experiences because people will actually start to come out again.”
He added, “I think the team did well, we just all got in and did our bit, no one being defined by what their actual job was, even our spa manager was taking food orders. It was a huge relief when the announcement was made to relax the restrictions, it meant that we can give more hours to our team, who have been waiting patiently.”
When the country went into lockdown following the first official community transmission, the management team at the Motootua based, Roko’s Restaurant debated whether they would remain open at all while the country worked to mitigate the health crisis under the high Covid Alert Levels.
Eventually, restaurant manager Moana Evans said their team felt confident in the country's high vaccination rates to continue their catering services while also incorporating new safety measures in their usual business operations.
“We had some initial hesitations and we really had to think hard about whether we wanted to open or not.” said Mrs Evans. “Eventually we did decide to open while also isolating and keeping the vulnerable and kids at home. Samoa's high vaccination rate also gave us the confidence to open and we put in measures to try and mitigate the risks. As well as the usual hygiene measures, we conducted daily testing, transported staff to and from work and we even had staff sleep over at times.”
Despite the challenges of running the restaurant under extraordinary circumstances, Mrs Evans said that their team remain optimistic and thankful that there were opportunities to trade in some capacity during the lockdown.
“Not all businesses operate in a 9 to 5 environment and previous lockdown times seemed to cater only to those that do, so the relaxed times were very welcome”, she said. “We consider ourselves very lucky to have even been allowed to open over the past weeks even with the limited times - one could make the argument either for or against if a restaurant should be considered an "essential business".
“Overall, we seem to have fared a lot better than others did when Covid reached them, most probably due to our much higher vax rates. And if the basics are continued like masks, hygiene and some form of social distancing, we can probably get back to normal soon, a somewhat "new" normal.”
The relaxing of curfew and public gathering in the lead up to Mother’s Day weekend meant tourism and hospitality operators were busy promoting their Mother’s Day specials, co-ordinating their staff and preparing their properties.
However one restaurant decided to go one step further and announce the rebranding of their establishment. A few doors down from Roko’s, restaurant owners, Jesse and Vaimoana Lee, announced their plans to “return to their roots” and re-name their establishment “Palusami Restaurant”.
“We had intended to rebrand Mi Amor Restaurant last year in August when we reopened but our restaurant was burgled and vandalised.” said Mrs Lee. “The Mi Amor brand garnered so much support overnight we decided to keep it until the end of the year. However, after all the SOE restrictions and lockdowns we thought this is the best time to refocus, regroup and why not rebrand!”
The proprietors of Palusami Restaurant are excited to test out a few recipes they created and refined during lockdown while promising the same authentic, healthy and flavoursome home-style cooking that first attracted loyal fans of the original Palusami restaurant.
“Our menu will consist of family favorites that Chef Jesse has been making for our bubble during the lockdowns utilising local ingredients and splashes of imported produce here and there to give it extra flavour,” said Mrs Lee.
“We have a young family and priorities change when you have young kids involved so we have decided to change our trading hours from 10am to 5pm Monday – Friday and 8am - 1pm on Saturday."
"We are optimistic and excited to share this new chapter of our culinary journey with everyone. We can’t promise perfection but we will definitely give it our best and at the end that’s all we can do. We look forward to opening our doors again, going back to where and why this food journey started for us.”