Restaurateur Duncan Heafield standing outside of his uMhlanga-based establishment, the Bellézar Beach Cafe. Picture: Supplied.
Restaurateur Duncan Heafield standing outside of his uMhlanga-based establishment, the Bellézar Beach Cafe. Picture: Supplied.

No masks no service: KZN restaurants ready for Covid-19 second wave and holidays

By Nathan Craig Time of article published Dec 13, 2020

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Durban - More than 200 restaurant owners from across the province have rallied together to disperse the dark cloud and fears hanging over the festive season that rolled in with the second wave of Covid-19 infections.

Fears escalated on Wednesday when Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced the country had plunged into its second wave of Covid-19 infections.

The Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Western Cape were declared hotspots – accounting for a majority of the new infections.

Over the past couple of months restaurants, coffee shops and eateries collectively met and committed to each other that they would play their part by implementing and complying with government’s stringent protocols to ensure the safety of their customers and staff.

The various clusters of establishments were from central Durban and Florida Road, uMhlanga Village, uMdloti and Ballito. They formed the collective in September when their establishment re-opened.

Restaurateurs not only focused on compliance but also ensuring their customers were educated on the various protocols and regulations they followed to promote transparency and quash any fears.

They formulated a battle plan to ensure they were prepared for the holiday season.

Duncan Heafield represented the provincial chapter of the Restaurant Association of South and the Hospitality Events and Leisure Industries of South Africa. Heafield owns the Bellézar Beach Cafe in uMhlanga.

“We had to ensure patrons were met with a set standard, showcasing our establishments as safe and comfortable. It is massively rewarding to see how many eateries united with one goal in mind. So many embraced and are maintaining the strict protocols,” he said.

Heafield said it was a welcomed first to see the comradery displayed between “competitor” eateries.

“We are all in this together and we know it. Covid-19 has strangely strengthened the relationships in our industry. We feel that our industry is the most heavily affected by the stigma of a second wave and the enforcement of protocols but we have been preparing for months. We are ready.”

Derryck Meyers, from Durban’s Butcher Boys Franchise with stores in Florida Road and Umhlanga, said he was pleased and taken aback by the resilience of the industry.

“Restaurants have amidst the reality of the pandemic in all our communities been able to mobilise standard norms and procedures to keep everyone safe and business flowing. The protocols, which are incidentally the most stringent of any industry, were adopted and integrated into our daily routines as we knew it was in everyone’s best interest.”

Larry Olive, owner of Sandbar in uMdloti along the north coast, said he would not compromise the safety of his patrons or staff and that meant clamping down on protocols.

Jo-Ann Gibson, of Mos Noodles in uMhlanga, ensured her restaurant implemented vigorous sanitation and routines in keeping with the collective’s high standards and goal of maintaining all protocols to ensure compliance.

Owner of Havana Grill at the Suncoast entertainment complex and Little Havana in Umhlanga Jose Goncalves said while maintaining the stringent protocols was key, the customers still deserved the best possible service a memorable experience.

Epidemiologist, infectious diseases specialist and ministerial advisory committee co-chairperson Professor Salim Abdool Karim said the second wave could be worse and the biggest risk was if the country became complacent.

Karim delivered the keynote address at the 2020 Postgraduate Research and Innovation Symposium in Durban, hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday.

He said about half of the 49 countries that completed their first wave experienced a second surge, with half of those countries experiencing a second wave that was worse than the first.

“The worrying part is that the second wave in the Eastern Cape looks worse than the first wave. I’m hoping that won’t be the case for the rest of the country, but there are reasons to think that it won’t be as bad,” he said.

With the expected travel surge to begin on December 16, due to schools, factories and industries closing, Karim said provinces with fewer numbers would start showing increases that would lead to a national second wave.

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