Restaurants kept in the dark

Restaurants lost business last Wednesday night because of the power cut on Grand Cayman.

But what compounded the problem was an inability to get information from CUC on how long the power loss was expected to last.

Restaurateur Giuseppe Gatta of The Lighthouse Restaurant at Breakers would like to see more information forthcoming from CUC to affected restaurants in future power cuts, such as approximate estimates on how long outages may last.

That way, he says, the restaurants can react accordingly.

The Wednesday evening power outage saw sections of power go out in West Bay, parts of George Town East End and North Side from 6.30pm. Power was substantially restored by 8.32pm.

Mr. Gatta said that when the electricity went off his staff immediately called the CUC outage helpline but the phone just rang without anyone answering it.

‘The frustration for us is that there is never anyone you can talk to, to give us an idea roughly of how long, so we know how to react to the customer,’ he said.

The Lighthouse does have emergency lights but they only last for half an hour after a power cut, so it went pitch black around 7pm. Also, because the air extractors were not working the temperature would rise in the kitchen to set off the sprinklers, so there could be no cooking.

‘But I was telling the customers hang around have a drink and let’s see if the electricity comes back on and we’re good to go. Of course after half an hour the customer says we can’t wait any longer so I complimented the drinks.’

That night there were 82 people on the books and during the course of the waiting they declined a further 20 more reservations.

From 5.30pm to 6.30pm they managed to feed about 15 people, but by 7pm they had to stop cooking because of heat issues.

‘One lady was celebrating her 92nd birthday. They arrived, they sat down, they had drinks, they had to leave,’ he said.

So at 7.30pm when Mr Gatta could not get hold of anyone from CUC he decided to shut down the operation.

When everything was shut down and put away, at 8.05pm Mr. Gatta was in the parking lot and the lights came back on. ‘It was too late to do anything because we had already called those people with the late reservations and told them don’t come because we have no electricity’.

Mr. Gatta said he felt frustrated by the entire episode because he could not get hold of anyone.

He explained his frustration to CUC’s customer service department on Thursday morning. He suggested to them that they should create a database of the businesses in various districts, that if there is an outage, CUC has someone to keep the businesses informed of how long to expect the power outage to last.

‘If they identify the problem and say it’s going to be an hour I can hold the fort, tell my customers have a drink. That would solve my problem,’ he said.

The manager on duty at West Bay Road’s Eats CafĂ© the night of the power cut, Federico Vallarino said their business definitely suffered. The power outage meant the extractor hoods in the kitchen would not work so they couldn’t cook. ‘We lost two hours of business in prime business time,’ he said.

They tried a few times to get through to CUC but had no luck.

He noted that it would have helped to have known how long the power was expected to be out. ‘It definitely would have helped to tell customers a time to come back or we could have sent some staff home instead of having them sitting around for two hours,’ he said.

At Calypso Grill in West Bay on Wednesday evening the emergency lights went into action when the power went and the chefs continued to cook on their gas cookers up until 8pm, although it was very, very hot in the kitchens, said Manager Lisa Macauley.

Although they knew someone from CUC and managed to get some information, they were told that the power cut could last anywhere from an hour to three hours, Ms Macauley said.

Although the power came back on just after 8pm they did not get many customers after that as they had already rang the later tables to inform them of the power cut and tell them they could not guarantee serving them food, she said.

It would make a huge difference to have more solid information in the future, she said.

Indeed this past Monday morning just after 10.20am there was an outage that affected parts of the island and the Lighthouse found itself without power once again, this time during lunch time.

‘Again I called the outage hotline and there was no answer,’ said Mr. Gatta. But he did get through to customer service as it was within office hours. But no-one could tell him how long power was expected to be out for.

Saturday, 9 August, there was also a power cut that affected the restaurant’s lunch trade, he said.

Mr. Gatta said he would expect a little bit of co-operation from CUC in the future, considering the bills people pay for their service. ‘I mean if I don’t pay my bills CUC cuts me off,’ he said.

CUC had not responded to emailed questions on the issue by press time.