It seems almost like a rhetorical question as most people can imagine that Aruba gastronomy is in dire straits. This is the case in most of the world, Aruba is no exception.
One of the frequently asked questions before traveling to Aruba is where can you eat. According to reports, the majority of restaurants remain closed, either temporarily or permanently. A few prominent local establishments have already confirmed that they have closed permanently, such as Taste of Belgium and churrascaria Texas de Brazil.
Of the about 400 registered restaurants in Aruba, only about 25% is operational. Most small independent restaurants have shut down. Mostly the larger restaurant groups are able to offer service.
The restaurants that did open, reportedly operate at about 25% revenue in comparison to previous years. That is clearly not enough to cover all the costs. Some restaurant owners that they won’t be able to go on for much longer. This, despite the fact that The Netherlands government offers payroll subsidies, but that is insufficient.
According to the leadership of the local Aruba Gastronomic Association (AGA), the last decade alone saw 200 new establishments to enter the market, only to close within its first year.
Lastly, according to the same AGA the whole sector employs about 5000 people. These are pre-COVID-19 numbers. Only a fraction is currently employed and the ones that are working don’t receive a full salary. Gratuities that most rely upon as well are suffering.
Despite the bleak situation as described above, I’m bullish about next year and years ahead for the local restaurants.
About 40% of the hotel inventory are timeshares, and most people who are visiting right now are related to timeshare ownership. Either the owners, family of the owners, or renters by the owners are currently traveling to Aruba. The foundation for customers is strong in the short term.
In the medium term, there seems to be perspective on the horizon for the promising vaccines.
Long terms expectations are positive. The announced reforms as mandated by the government of The Netherlands should bring a leaner and healthier economy.
Major player Meta Corporation is developing one of the largest Imax Movie and Entertainment Center in the Caribbean. It will include many food and entertainment establishments under a single roof. The complex is located by the main road from the airport to the hotels and it is expected to become a major attraction.
Restaurants can be high cash-flow businesses that require funding to either relaunch or strengthen their financial positions for the coming years. Aruba sorely lacks institutions or individuals who are able to invest.
I’m in the early stages of putting together a paper where I’m going to lay out investment options in restaurants, with a monthly payout. In case you are interested and would like more information please contact me at email@example.com.
My Restaurant Picks
Aruba does not disappoint in terms of food. Below I’m sharing my top 3 picks and the motivation why it’s my favorite.
Bear in mind that these are hyper-related to my taste and they don’t offer necessarily the best high-end service or experience. These three are local establishments that may deserve your consideration.
Zeerover restaurant and seafood market place are located on the southern side of Aruba, in Savaneta.
It is very popular with locals because of their fresh seafood. The prices are reasonable, too.
Fishermen bring their merchandise straight to the pier and sells them to the restaurant. Nothing fancy, but the place is very authentic.
Urataka Center is located in the heart of Aruba.
In the middle of the working class urbanization of Santa Cruz, this establishment becomes the must to visit place for locals and tourist who want authentic Aruban vibes.
Dishes are simple but very good. Nothing fancy, and expect good value.
Flying Fishbone is located on the southern side of Savaneta (my “hometown”) is a full-service seafood restaurant.
Table are on the beach, so wear sandals or flipflops.
Seafood is amazing and the steaks (yes, please) are superb.
It is lovely to come and hang at the bar to consume your favorite adult beverage.
- Che Bar & Cocina Argentina – Love the curb-side vibes at this small restaurant, and the owners are lovely people.
- OceanZ Restaurant – Highly rated, a small restaurant at a boutique hotel. They excel in keeping an eye on the details. Love the owners, too
- Passions on the Beach – Beach dining brought to you by small Amsterdam Manor Resort at Eagle Beach. The food is amazing and Eagle Beach dining is top-notch.
- El Gaucho Argentine Grill – Aruba’s oldest functioning restaurant has been a staple on this island for over 4 decades. The steaks here are world-class and if you are craving meat, you cannot go wrong here.
Update 17 November 2020: added additional piece under “Current Situation”.
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