Mario Sabga-Aboud

Mario Sabga-Aboud

CHAIRMAN of the Global Brands Group of Companies, Mario Sabga-Aboud, said yesterday while the Government was doing what it must to beat the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurant operators who must close up shop from today would have benefited from a few days’ notice.

This followed Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s announcement yesterday that Government’s anti-coronavirus response has been ramped up and all restaurants are to close until April 30, 2020.

Rowley was speaking at a media briefing on the pandemic at the Diplomatic Centre in Port of Spain.

Sabga-Aboud, whose companies include popular fast-food chains Pizza Boys and Rituals, said he agreed with the closure of all restaurants but felt the action was “too sudden”.

“I felt we could have gotten a few extra days,” Sabga-Aboud said via telephone. “It’s a lot to prepare and it is not easy to suddenly shut down a restaurant.”

Sabga-Aboud has, however, expressed full support for local anti-virus measures and wished to assure Trinidad and Tobago that it will emerge from the pandemic and will be better for the experience.

“I totally agree with the action and we have to give Government support in this,” he said.

Thankful for employees

Sabga-Aboud noted that negative impact of the pandemic on business but said Global Brands was not looking at lay-offs and has begun a structure to support employees while there is no work.

The business employs some 1,100 people locally and also has employees at its branches in St Kitts, where a 24-hour curfew is in effect, and in St Lucia, where a lockdown is also under way.

“We have employees on these islands as well, and we will be supporting all employees,” Sabga-Aboud assured.

Further assessments will be made towards the end of April, when, it is hoped, the pandemic would not have worsened. He said workers will receive a stipend while their employment is affected by the pandemic and other forms of support necessary during that time.

As news broke yesterday that all restaurants were to close, the company also decided that perishables in stock would be distributed to staff.

“We are thankful for our employees and the service they provide,” Sabga-Aboud said.

“We have to be there for them in the good times and the bad.” He went on to ask the national community to work together and adhere to guidelines issued by Government, including limiting non-essential movement outside the home.

Sabga-Aboud further stated: “I promise we will get through this and be stronger for it. It may get worse before it gets better, but we will make it through.”

He said T&T must, however, act “as one big group, not as individuals, but as a country”.

Mario’s Pizza: Stay safe, come back

Pizza chain Mario’s also yesterday called on the national community to stay safe, as it announced that its outlets will be closed from today, until the stipulated time of April 30.

In an advisory circulated via social media to customers, Mario’s chief executive officer, Roger Harford, noted the new measure yesterday, adding:

“As we continue to battle against COVID-19, we urge you to stay safe and follow the guidelines issued by our Government.

We will closely monitoring the situation as it develops and hope to welcome you back as soon as it is safe for us to resume.”

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