South African restaurant closures are beginning to pile up – which is to be expected, given that the country is 74 days into what has been a strict lockdown sought by government to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The Restaurant Association of South Africa (Rasa) estimates that restaurants employ around 800,000 people in South Africa, while new lobby group – the Restaurant Collective – says that the industry is ready, and desperate to open.
Restaurant Collective’s 12 members, which include Tashas, Signature Restaurants, Sakhumzi restaurant of Soweto’s Vilakazi Street, Piza e Vino, Ocean Basket and Doppio Zero, have a combined 512 sit-down restaurants around the country.
Fast food operators have been able to provide delivery services for some time, and under current lockdown level 3, restaurants were able to re-open on 1 June for collections and deliveries. Sit-down service is still forbidden until lockdown level 1.
However, according to Gwen Harding, founder of and chief executive officer of Ocean Basket, who heads up the Restaurant Collective, this easing of lockdown restrictions does not serve the restaurant industry.
She stressed that sit-down restaurants have a vastly different operating model to takeaways, with deliveries representing a mere 10% of total sales under normal circumstances.
Harding noted that restaurants make use of a third-party delivery platforms including the likes of Uber Eats or Mr D, who charge a 30% commission on the meal ticket.
Under the guidance and leadership of Harding, the Restaurant Collective has developed a hygiene and governance protocol for the safe opening and operation of restaurants. Harding said that the collective has achieved much over the past month, in order to be ready to open.
In addition, collaboration with the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA), has resulted in a restaurant manager’s SETA-accredited course being approved.
Ocean Basket has been accredited as a training provider for Restaurant Management Education in South Africa and both Ocean Basket and Tasha’s trainers are providing free online training for opening – they are able to train up to 1,000 restaurant owners/managers per week.
Harding noted that all sit-down restaurants will display a certificate indicating that they have gone through the training and they are committed to the protocols around Covid-19 related safety.
A customer helpline has been established to assist customers with any concerns relating to Covid-19 and their safety.
The group pointed to a list of around 40 restaurants in Cape Town alone that have closed their doors since lockdown was enforced.