Fernando Damaso, 21 September 2016 — The few state restaurants that offer varied and quality menus, along with good service, have high prices that are totally inaccessible for the average citizen. Entrees costing 10, 12 or more Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC: worth roughly $1 each, in a country with an average monthly wage of around $20-$24). Sandwiches are 5 CUC, side dishes 2 CUC and desserts 3-5 CUC. Domestic beers are 1.50 and 2.50 CUC and soft drinks, also domestic, are 1 and 1.20 CUC.
The phenomenon is the same in private establishments. Many of them started off as more or less affordable, with prices more or less accessible, good quality menus and also good service. Gradually they have raised prices 50% and even 100%. So plates that used to cost 3 CUC now cost 5, and those that used to cost 5 now cost 7 or 8 or even more.
With the drinks it’s even worse. A domestic beer that used to cost no more than 1 CUC is now 1.50, 2 and 2.50. Domestic soft drinks that were 0.55 CUC are now 1 and 1.20.
Wines and spirits, it’s better not to talk about them, the prices have skyrocketed. The same is true for desserts, which are never less than 1.50 CUC and even as much as 3 and 5 CUC, for just a wedge of cake.
These new businesspeople forgot the classic Cuban inn, where you could eat well at affordable prices, and they only want to get rich overnight, at the cost of emptying their customers’ pockets.
It is true that Cuba today is a difficult market, depreciated and debased, where many new entrepreneurs, “knife in hand,” are ready to flay anyone in front of them, but this, necessarily, will change and some honest and responsible restauranteurs will prevail, earning reasonable profits and offering quality food and good service, and gaining the esteem and fidelity of their customers. This, no doubt, will earn their establishments a name and prestige, as well as profits.
El Floridita, Monseñor, El Castillo de Farnés, La Zaragozana, La Bodeguita del Medio, El Emperador, Europa, El Centro Vasco, Rancho Luna, El Polinesio, Mandarín, Hong Kong, Wakamba, La Cibeles, América and many other restaurants and cafes were not famous for their high prices, but for the quality of their offerings and their magnificent service, where there were respectful relationships between owners and customers. This must also be present among the new “savage entrepreneurs.”