File photo: One thing that is going to drive people in the door will be what you are serving at the bar. No liquor, no dice. That is where the money is. Picture: AP
File photo: One thing that is going to drive people in the door will be what you are serving at the bar. No liquor, no dice. That is where the money is. Picture: AP

Level 3: What you need to know about restaurants

By Lutho Pasiya Time of article published Jun 26, 2020

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After weeks of lockdown and physical distancing, what does the future hold for South African restaurants? 

The coronavirus has not only been a harmful public-health crisis, but it has also been the restaurant industry’s greatest challenge to date. 

Never before have so many restaurants been forced to suspend operations or shut their doors for good.

Last week, while addressing the country, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that restaurants will be operating again for sit-ins under level 3 of the lockdown. 

Speaking to the spokesperson for the lobby group, The Restaurant Collective and CEO of Ocean Basket, Grace Harding, she said that firstly, they first need to establish what the regulations are under the advanced level 3 to determine if it makes business sense for them to reopen.

Harding said that if it does make sense they will be able to mobilise quite quickly as they have been preparing their stores, training their staff, modifying their menus, and working with their suppliers to be ready for the past several weeks.  

“We already have safety plans based on social distancing and extreme hygiene standards. We will be following the covid safety protocols that cover social distancing and sanitizing. 1,5m distance between tables.  

"Menus are being reduced to make ordering and preparation easier to manage. 

"People who sit down to eat together should be comfortable to be together without masks. We are hoping that the government distinguishes between a pub, a coffee shop, and a sit-down restaurant – all very different and need different thought processes. 

"Social distancing at a bar counter is very different from social distancing in a sit-down restaurant where guests are not moving around as much,” she said.

Mozambik restaurant group spokesperson, Hein Kaiser said that while it would be good news for restaurants to receive the green light to reopen, the regulations would ultimately play a substantial role in determining success. He said that at Mozambik they have already designed and implemented strict social distancing, sanitization, and other protocols in anticipation of the regulations. 

“However, aspects such as social distancing would impact restaurant capacity and, ergo, revenue.

"Thus, we have also engaged in the development of our own online delivery and click to order for collection service, which has and will likely continue to serve us well during these challenging times. 

"Also, to further deliver much-needed revenue streams to the business, we have started a grocery line branded Mozambik4Home along with various other e-commerce and income-generating projects. It would likely take several years for the industry to recover, particularly given the current weakness of the economy, too,” said Kaiser. 

Proprietor of the Chefs Warehouse chain of restaurants Liam Tomlin said the president’s announcement did little in the way of providing clarity on a path to reopening. 

He told The Weekend Argus that without solid guidelines from the NCCC on how restaurants will operate, restaurants can't make a decision on whether they will open or not.

“The announcement was very vague and really doesn’t make it any easier for us in planning or making any decisions on the reopening of our businesses or if it will make financial sense to reopen them until we have solid guidelines as to how we can operate,” he said.

“For example, can we serve alcohol as normal without restrictions on the hours of consumption as we experienced pre-lockdown. How many guests can we have in our space, how many staff are allowed on site, etc.”

Chef and restaurateur Nick Liberato and entrepreneur Mike Dalewitz who are also founders of the 618 Hospitality Group that helps provide immediate tools to restaurants in need during the coronavirus pandemic provide below, a set of concrete actions that can help restaurants to return to stability and help shape the next normal. 

This is also what patrons can expect when their favourite eateries finally open.

Outdoor seating

This expands the seating much more than what can be achieved indoors. This all depends on the space and weather of course.

Liquor license 

One thing that is going to drive people in the door will be what you are serving at the bar. No liquor, no dice. That is where the money is.

Takeaway or delivery

This we feel is a must for most businesses to have set up. It allows an extra revenue stream as well as a business that will still bring money in during a pandemic. There will still be a lot of people that will not dine out. That has to be taken advantage of with the right menu.

A new way of service 

Systems will be changed in the front and back of the house to make the business more sustainable. Less overhead and employees mean more money for the business. Most have learned that during this time.

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