Starting in December, the Cuban government will lease select state-owned eateries to their workers to run as independent businesses, a possibility that has been available to barber shops and beauty salons for some time.

According to officials cited in state media, the system of private management of small cafes and state restaurants will begin with 200 establishments that have no more than two workers each, and will be gradually increased to some 1,200.

When the efficiency of the system has been shown, it will be extended to eateries with up to five workers.

Besides economic effiency, one of the measure's goals is "to offer a higher quality of service in establishments that do not always offer varied and attractive menus to consumers," according to a report on state television.

The expansion of the non-state sector is at the core of the economic reforms promoted in recent years by President Raul Castro, which have opened a small foothold to private enterprise in the only communist country in the Americas.

The growth of self-employment and small-scale private enterprise has led to a proliferation of small businesses, many of them restaurants, coffee shops and small cafes. EFE