File photo: Paul Sakuma/AP

HARARE – Fast Foods and other retail operators in Zimbabwe, among them KFC and OK Zimbabwe, have re-opened outlets they had closed down a month ago when the country's economy tipped down, hammered by rising operational costs and shortages of fuel and other raw materials.

KFC cited challenges in the economy for its decision to close down all its operations on October 11, while OK Zimbabwe said it was refurbishing its large outlet known as OK Mart in Harare. 

Other retailers re-strategised by opening shorter times as they sought to contain costs and to manage panic buying by consumers as well as having fewer working shifts.

But on Friday, KFC re-opened its outlets in Zimbabwe; the company has four counters in Harare and two more outside the capital. The company said in a statement that it was “reopening our restaurants following the recent currency challenges that hit Zimbabwe which affected our supply” and operations.

“To our restaurant teams; we would like to welcome you back home, and to our loyal customers, we look forward to creating more Finger Lickin’ Good moments with you,” said Thabisa Mkhwanazi, the public affairs director for KFC Africa.

The fast foods counter competes against franchise operators of Nando’s, Steers and Chicken Inn.

“Yes we are now open. We don't have the menu online yet – please can you visit the restaurant for assistance,” said an online customer service attendant asked about prices.

The company's prices have risen by nearly 100 percent on some products. Retail operators say margins have been squeezed on the back of rising parallel market currency rates and that this has forced operators to pass on the costs to consumers.

Sources at one of the company’s outlets in Harare said by the time that the company suspended operations it had “stock for a few days”, most of which has had to be “written off” as the company seeks to start afresh.

One such large retail operator, OK Zimbabwe – which has re-opened its OK Mart outlet – has also complained about the 2 percent electronic transaction tax introduced by Finance Minister, Mthuli Ncube in October this year.

“The 2 percent intermediary tax penalises compliant taxpayers,” said OK Zimbabwe chief executive officer, Alex Siyavora.