The recent outbreak of COVID-19 in South Africa has created havoc in the restaurant industry and threatened its very survival. Many restaurants have temporarily closed, operating hours have been affected, there is new legislation regarding the sale of alcohol as well as limitations on the number of patrons. The sad reality is that many businesses are likely to fold under the current economic circumstances; and I’m referring to businesses across ALL industries and spectrums, not just hospitality.
The South African Government has done an excellent job in educating the general public through media and advertising by encouraging social distancing and self-isolation in order to control the rate of infection in South Africa. The lessons learnt from other countries such as Italy have allowed us as South Africans to be proactive and act fast. The reality is that South Africa simply doesn’t have a public healthcare system on par with that of Italy and similarly we have far fewer doctors per capita than Italy. For this reason not complying with Government’s recommendations, could result in a total collapse and crippling of the South African healthcare system. Therefore I believe it is our responsibility and duty as socially conscious citizens to take heed and abide by Government’s recommendations. In doing so we can all play our part in the larger system thereby “flattening the curve”.
Many restaurants have actually led this socially responsible and proactive behaviour by temporarily closing down for the foreseeable future and putting the safety of both their staff as well as the public first and foremost. A very commendable and respectable decision. Unfortunately realistically speaking, this option is not available to smaller businesses who don’t have sufficient cash flow available to survive the next possible months without any form of income. Given the tough economic repercussions on the hospitality industry in particular, we are also seeing an unprecedented amount of creativity by restaurants and catering companies. Some have really stepped up and adapted to the tough climatic conditions and in doing so have implemented clever operational tweaks in order to weather the storm.
Some socially responsible restaurants who’ve shut their doors:
1. The Test Kitchen (Cape Town)
2. Pot Luck Club (Cape Town)
3. The Short Market Club (Cape Town)
4. Salsify at The Roundhouse (Cape Town)
5. Marble (Johannesburg)
6. Saint (Johannesburg)
Some creative restaurants who’ve cleverly tweaked their operations:
1. Catch 22 (Cape Town) – They’re offering a delivery facility as well as looking into box deliveries where you could request for example their incredible Saldanha Bay mussels which will arrive cleaned and pre-steamed along with a container of the most amazing white wine and garlic sauce which you can then heat up and serve at home.
2. Pomodoro (Johannesburg) – They were one of the very first restaurants to implement the curb side/ drive through service whereby a patron can place an order and your food will be delivered to your car window (without you having to get out) by one of the waiters who will be wearing masks and gloves as a precautionary measure.
3. DW Eleven-13 (Johannesburg) – They’ve implemented a “fine dining at home” service where you can call ahead to order a family meal and then collect (they require a minimum of three hours lead time to prepare your meal).
4. Doppio Zero (Johannesburg, Stellenbosch & Umhlanga) – They have initiated a WhatsApp order system making it easy to enjoy your favourite DZ meals at home. They’ve also implemented an incredible “pay it forward” initiative where they’re encouraging patrons to also purchase and collect meals for vulnerable individuals they know who may not be able to do so themselves.
5. Piza e Vino – In keeping with responsible behaviour they have temporarily closed their Melrose Arch branch but they’re also offering a WhatsApp order system so that you can collect your favourite meal from the branch closest to you.
6. Clay oven (Johannesburg) – They’re offering takeaway deliveries of their menu options. Their Sunday roast options are phenomenal and will be perfectly enjoyed at home too.
7. The Local Grill (Johannesburg) – They’re offering ordering and collection facilities of their incredible meat cuts at great value for money which you can then braai in the comfort of your own home.
Third party platforms are also stepping up and assisting in any way they can. Some are currently offering free delivery and others have increased their current operations to now include not only restaurant bookings but also online ordering and deliveries.
Some creative third party platforms:
1. Dineplan – Dineplan a restaurant reservation app, will now be offering free takeaway accounts to assist restaurants during this time. Diners will now be able place orders and make easy online payments thereby avoiding any cash in hand exchanges.
2. Mr D Food – one of the oldest delivery food services in South Africa. They’re now offering contactless door side delivery to ensure the safey of their staff as well as the public thereby still practising social distancing. Your very first order via the app is free.
3. Uber Eats – Uber Eats is now offering free delivery to all South Africans between 11:00 and 14:00 on week days in an attempt to assist those who are working from home. They, too will be implementing doorstep delivery in order to avoid contact protecting both their delivery partner as well as the general public.
The events industry, too, has been hard hit due to the cancellation of numerous functions and prohibition of large gatherings. Fortunately some clever catering companies have also adapted their operations.
Some creative catering companies who’ve cleverly tweaked their operations:
1. JEM Catering (Johannesburg) – They are offering deliveries and collections of delicious home cooked family meals. The meals are wholesome and nutritious and come already prepared requiring only to be heated.
2. Catering Edge (Johannesburg) – They are also offering deliveries and collections of home cooked meals. Their food is incredibly delicious with a focus on simple healthy homely meals. Similarly, their meals are also pre-prepared requiring only reheating.
Lastly there are also some incredible home style chefs you can follow on social media if you’d like to try mimic their fantastic recipes that are simple, quick and healthy (you want to keep your immune system strong – especially now – and eat nutritious meals). You can simply order your food online from various grocery stores such as Woolworths, Checkers, Pic n Pay, etc. and cook your own meals in your very own kitchen.
Some inspiring home chefs:
1. GlamFoodie – GlamFoodie was a runner up on Taste Master SA. She cooks up delicious and ‘glamorous’ meals. You’ll want to give her coriander grilled prawns with sweet corn and coconut mashed potato a try. She also has some delicious dessert recipes like her raspberry and Turkish delight panna cotta with goats cheese cream and dark chocolate. Follow her here https://www.instagram.com/glamfoodiesa/
2. The Daily Dilemna – Haseena from The Daily Dilemna has created some great homely comfort food easy to make recipes. Some of my favourites include her tacos, magwinya/vetkoek and mince and delicious crumpets. Have a look at her recipes here https://www.instagram.com/the_daily_dilemna/
3. 3. The Lazy Makoti – The Lazy Makoti is a best-selling author and cookbook award winner. She’s been helping ladies pull off fantastic homemade meals for years by providing healthy and easy to make recipes. Her lamb curry is a sure winner for chilli winter days and her fresh rocket, cucumber and kiwi salad is perfect for warmer days. Check out her amazing dishes here https://www.instagram.com/thelazymakoti/
At the end of the day we are living in unpresented times and our best chance of fighting this as a nation is by adapting and practising safe and socially responsible behaviour. Let’s curb this virus and practise social distancing now so that we do not have to undergo this for a far longer period than necessary. If we as South Africans don’t comply, we’re very likely to follow the footsteps of Europe and face an inevitable lock down which could be far more detrimental to the hospitality industry in the long term. I love eating out and I’m the first to admit that this is going to be a challenge. There are many ways of still enjoying your favourite treat meals while still supporting the restaurant industry. However, at this moment in time, eating out is an unnecessary luxury that we cannot continue to do. So let’s be safe and responsible and practise social distancing. If not for yourself, do it for your grandparents. Do it for HIV positive South Africans and all other immunocompromised individuals. Do it for all those who have no choice but to live in close proximity to their neighbours. Do it for all those who live below the poverty line and don’t even have access to water and sanitation. Do it for the many South Africans who have no choice but to rely on public transport. Do it for all South Africans who cannot afford private medical aid. With a little perspective I think we can all agree on what’s necessary at this stage. So for the time being, rather stay home.