‘A third-party delivery person makes 40 or 50 points of contact a day. If you collect your own meal, it can be a contactless collection’
LEVEL 4 of the Covid-19 lockdown has given some in the restaurant business a little relief now that deliveries are allowed. But for many it is not enough to save an industry that is dying fast.
It is expensive and discriminates, said Restaurant Association of South Africa (Rasa) chief executive Wendy Alberts. “These regulations have discriminated against the informal sector who can’t simply deliver, because they would be delivering to informal addresses.”
This week Rasa sent an application to the government.
“We want to reopen the industry and we want to be in a position where people are allowed to collect on a non-contact list,” said Alberts.
“A third-party delivery person makes 40 or 50 points of contact a day. If you collect your own meal, it can be a contactless collection. At the end of the day there is absolutely no opportunity for us to financially sustain ourselves.”
Some restaurants this week started providing food on a delivery basis.
The Troyeville Hotel began circulating WhatsApp messages with its lockdown menu. But it’s not an ideal situation, said the hotel’s Manny Guedes. “I can’t see the logic of what they are doing. Uber adds 30% to the bill, that is crazy.”
The hotel has set up its own delivery service, for which it charges 15% on the price of the meal.
But like elsewhere, catering for deliveries requires a skeleton staff. The majority of restaurant employees remain unemployed and their employers unable to pay them.
With restaurants only allowed to be partially open, it is time for establishments to become innovative, believes the owner of Pablo Eggs-Go-Bar, Louis Roux.
He has organised auctions of his restaurant’s art to raise money to pay staff. “You have got multiple offers, you have got to get out there in as many ways as possible,” he said. “You can’t just wait for the Uber machine to beep when somebody wants to order a margarita pizza.”
Roux is attempting to attract customers through its specials.
“We have slow roast Sunday and next week we plan to launch slow smoked Saturdays, where we will do all our cooking in our smoker. So we will do ribs and smoked salmon, that kind of thing. Now we just need to populate the Fridays.”
And then there are other challenges. In countries where restrictions have been lifted, restaurant owners have noticed that patrons are reluctant to go out for a meal. People fear they might still become infected with the virus. There is even a name for it – coronaphobia.
Alberts believed that was a problem for the future. For now, restaurants need to survive. “We in the industry can’t survive a bad weekend, let alone a bad month, and now we are going on to a bad season.”