Abel Mokoena on joining the hospitality industry and new beginnings at The Social

Abel Mokoena, a hospitality consultant, restaurateur, partner and director of the eMakhosini Group. Picture: Supplied

Abel Mokoena, a hospitality consultant, restaurateur, partner and director of the eMakhosini Group. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 11, 2024


The past four years have been a roller-coaster ride for many local restaurants dealing with the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But 2023 ushered in a hopeful new era for local foodies, as the South African dining scene slowly came back to life.

The year was highlighted by many changes ‒ including new ownership taking the helm at a couple of well-known establishments ‒ and new beginnings, with the addition of an array of restaurants and bistros with diverse menus, as well as quick-service options.

Each brings to the table their unique concepts, fresh vision and, most importantly, good food and drink.

And when it comes to Durban, there is no shortage of places to dine at, no matter what you are craving.

New on the scene is The Social, located at the eMakhosini Boutique Hotel.

The hotel is set in the trendy suburb of Morningside and boasts a delightful blend of French colonial with a hint of traditional Zulu.

At the restaurant, you can indulge your senses in their exquisite dining options, where their talented chefs create culinary masterpieces inspired by local flavours and international cuisine.

Whether you prefer an intimate dinner or a lively gathering, they offer an array of choices to suit every palate.

Independent Newspapers Lifestyle caught up with hospitality consultant, restaurateur, partner and director of the eMakhosini Group, Abel Mokoena, to talk about his journey in the hospitality industry and the new venture.

Abel Mokoena, a hospitality consultant, restaurateur, partner and director of the eMakhosini Group. Picture: Supplied

Mokoena’s earliest food memory was his mother’s Sunday lunch cooking.

“She would wake up early in the morning to prepare for lunch before we went to church. Waking up to that smell was a piece of heaven. It was a tradition at home every Sunday. Church and lunch as a family, no matter what,” he said.

Mokoena recalled fetching his waiter friend from work and he used tell him all these amazing stories about guests and what happens in the restaurant.

Fascinated by them, Mokoena then applied at a restaurant at the Pavilion Mall in 1998 and he never looked back.

“I have been part of the hospitality industry for over 26 years, and I have been blessed enough to work in restaurants, city hotels, lodges, theme parks and casinos.

“I have always had this urge to start something of my own, but I have always been busy with work and never had the opportunity to do that. Covid-19 made me explore the option further and after my departure from Luma Life Hospitality Group, it was time.

“We have an amazing country and I think all of us have a purpose for our lives which was set before we were even born; mine is making people happy. The best way for me to do that is with the hospitality industry. I really love people,” he said.

Mokoena said he learned about leadership while working in this industry.

“I think that is the best lesson I ever learnt. Getting to understand and appreciate all ages, religions and backgrounds of my team. It took me a long time and I am still learning about leadership from mentors and industry leaders,” he said.

About The Social, Mokoena said it was created in October 2023 as a hangout or chill area for hotel patrons and he was roped in by the shareholders in December 2023 to add flavour and bring attention to the brand.

“My hospitality and lifestyle knowledge and experience came in handy when it comes to the brand.

“We serve light meals perfectly suited for sundowners and cocktails. The space is perfect for a hook-up with friends after work and talk about the weekend plans and shut down from office life.

“Our menu was designed by our head chef, Taty Mabidi. He infused traditional African and Asian cuisine with elements of fine dining inspiration.

“On Mondays, we serve the uBukhosi Mogodu Monday, and as the name suggests, we are all about serving traditionally authentic African cuisine.

“And on Sunday we focus on soul food and music. Every Sunday, we celebrate good old South African Sunday kos, also known as 7-colours lunch with soul music, just like how Sundays should be,” he said.

Mokoena said this partnership is very close to his heart and that this is an opportunity to create a beautiful, mature and tranquil space in a historic venue.