Local chefs share what it’s like opening a new restaurant post-lockdown
The future of the restaurant industry around the world is in turmoil – the solution to which is a focus on what is local and sustainable. This is not only just about sourcing produce and ingredients but also about attracting local diners and being an active part of the local community.
This was one of several conclusions of the recent Food Meets Hope online event by S Pellegrino, and is affirmed in the experiences of three brand new South African restaurants brave enough to launch post-lockdown: Oxalis, Entrée, and Lucky at The Piano Bar.
The online event explored the future of fine-dining post-pandemic, talking to chefs and restaurateurs from across the world about three main themes – recovery, inclusivity and evolution. This year, the restaurant industry has been hard hit but green shoots are rising from the ashes. It takes plenty of guts and a good measure of optimism to launch a new restaurant in this climate, but those who are passionate about their profession see it as a practical way to survive and move forward.
Here, chefs of three South African restaurants chat about what made them take the leap of faith, and how they were inspired by connecting with the local market.
When Janse & Co closed in August, four of the core team did a super-quick turnaround and started a nine-month pop-up.
Liezl Odendaal said it was out of necessity.
“The aim was a casual restaurant where guests could feel comfortable meeting friends and enough space for social distancing. Our current market is 100% locals. Affordability and value is an authentic manner we feel is a big attraction.
“We try to make our guests feel literally at home. We realised very quickly that everyone would have to be multifunctional. As a pastry chef, I need to also work the grill, prepare the vegetables, welcome guests, serve guests, pot wash, etc, and we cook basic but delicious and honest food and maybe introduce the guests to a few ingredients they may not have heard of,” said Odendaal.
Before lockdown chef Archie Maclean and his wife Dominique were making a great success out of Café Bonbon in the Franschhoek valley.
Lockdown led to a parting of ways with their landlord but they didn’t want to liquidate the business and leave their staff and suppliers stranded.
Archie said that the best way forward and the strongest possibility to get through to the other side seemed to be to find other premises and keep going with a new restaurant.
“Flexibility is key. We’ve had so much support from the Franschhoek locals. Dominique is in front of the house and she is my secret weapon, people come by just to see her and she makes everyone feel at home,” he said.
Lucky at The Piano Bar
Chef Cheyne Morrisby had only just launched his latest restaurant, Fire Monkey, in Claremont to positive reviews when lockdown struck.
Morrisby said Covid-19 has been a time of incredible hardship and reflection. It has taught him some valuable lessons on how restaurants have adapted and survived through this time, and with that, there have been some amazing opportunities that have come his way. He said that honesty and transparency are the most important qualities to attract diners right now, but not much has changed in his approach.
“We have really come back as we were. We wanted our customers to come back to something that they had before, a feeling of familiarity, and a sense of home. Transferring staff and knowledge across into a new space carries the DNA of our group,” said Morrisby.
After long upsetting months of restaurants closing due to coronavirus, new places have been opening. Below are some of the new spots.
Two4One Kitchen and Bar
Situated in Observatory in Cape Town is Two4One Kitchen and Bar, a first of its kind restaurant concept in South Africa where all main dishes are available all day, every day at two meals for the price of one.
Two4One Kitchen and Bar is open seven days a week from noon to 12am, 90 Lower Main Road, Observatory.
Situated in Sandton in Joburg, SOLO Restaurant is a trendy, casual dining eatery co-founded by Tumelo Maepa, Hlompho Chauke, and Thokozane Shongwe, who is also the executive chef. Shongwe’s favourite dish on the menu is grilled ostrich where he has created a fusion of class and South African township flavours to bring the restaurant personality.
Cloud Dine Restaurant
Fiamme Holdings, owner and franchisor of more than 100 outlets through The Fish & Chip Co and Maxi’s Grill brand, recently announced the opening of its new revolutionary franchise online restaurant concept which is CloudDine. The first CloudDine franchise outlet will service customers in the east of Joburg, with the store located in the Eastgate mall precinct.
Legacy Yard, uMhlanga
Durbanites have been craving something new and with the recently opened uMhlanga Arch, they are getting just that. With two food-centric spaces – the Legacy Yard food hall and the Back Yard rooftop bar, Durbanites will have their pick of what they want to eat.