While president Cyril Ramaphosa has again, last night, extended an olive branch to restaurants in the latest Covid-19 restrictions, restaurateurs remain anxious about their industry’s future as liquor sales are still prohibited.
In his address on developments in the country’s coronavirus response, Ramaphosa reiterated that restaurants could continue trading with no more than 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors. Restaurants, however, are still forced to close early in line with the nationwide curfew.
Sindile Kama, the owner of 50 on Gugs Tshisanyama in Gugulethu, Cape Town, tell Food For Mzansi his revenue took a nosedive of nearly 80%. While he understands the need behind “some” of government’s Covid-19 strategies, he feels businesses are suffering while the state is offering little to no support.
“My revenue largely dropped because of the ban on alcohol,” he says. “People come to sit here, not necessarily for the food, but for the alcohol. The loss of business then cascades down to the staff not being able to work. And when there’s no work, there’s no money and when there’s no money, there’s no food at home.”
Kama’s marketing tactics to try and maximise income despite the stringent regulations, has yielded little results. He earlier offered clients a home delivery service which resulted in very little additional revenue.
On top of that, there is the reality of extra expenses incurred to try and keep clients protected from Covid-19.
“Who pays for these sanitisers and equipment that you have to have at the door? I do. So now there are extra expenses, while there’s barely money coming in. And there’s no support coming in from government.”
Dramatic revenue losses
For Northern Cape restaurant owner Fanie Fick the reduced operating hours and ban on alcohol sales was not only a personal blow, but to everyone around him. Just a day after the president’s first announcement on the adjusted level 3 lockdown regulations, his sales dropped by 90%. His enterprise went from generating about R15 000 a day to just R4 000.
“I see the panic on my workers’ faces when the restaurant seats are empty. They worry about their salaries and their livelihood,” he says.
Furthermore, Fick’s relationship with his suppliers have also taken strain. He ordered stock which arrived just a day before Ramaphosa announced the alcohol sales ban. This has since led to great inconvenience.
“My suppliers expect their money, but now I cannot afford to pay my suppliers, and this then affects them because now they won’t be able to meet their financial commitments.”
Fick, like many other restaurateurs, have hoped that government would, at the very least, consider normal trading hours to give the industry a much-needed financial boost.
“I am not saying that Covid-19 should not be taken seriously, but we must keep the economy going. I mean, we are a small community and there are many people who do not work. Both my venues are anyway outdoor venues.”
Government has now forced restaurants to stop taking orders at 19:00, he says. “Most of my clients only finish work around that time, so I am losing that clientele. Some, clients stay away completely.”
Call for financial support
Julie Huckle, a Stellenbosch restaurateur, says the past few weeks of minimal trading with no financial support from government or any other financial institution, will ultimately lead to the closure of more restaurants.
This she says will, “lead to yet more hungry families who will have no one to turn to. Have we not been punished enough? At the very least give us some financial support if you are taking away our trade.”