The news that South Africans will be able to purchase hot foods again from Friday, May 1, under the country’s Level 4 lockdown restrictions, has been met with excitement.
The lifting of a ban on the sale of hot foods and takeaways means they will once again be available for purchase – but only via delivery services.
A government Covid-19 document outlining the schedule of services for sectors, says no sit-ins or take-aways will be allowed on Level 4 of the lockdown. It also states that alcohol will not be permitted to be sold.
During the briefing by economic cluster ministers, Small Business Development Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said that government will announce mechanisms of support for restaurants: “In terms of the restaurants, when the announcement has been made with regards to the phased approach of what’s happening with restaurants, together with the Minister of Tourism, we’re going to announce the support mechanisms for restaurants, including shisanyamas and all others who cook in the townships and rural areas.”
The thrill of people being able to order takeaways from their favourite fast food restaurants, has brought about a sense of relief for many because they will finally get a break from the daily chore of cooking.
The sale of takeaways will be permitted for delivery only from fast food outlets and restaurants between the hours of 9am and 7pm. But with the level of excitement anticipation this brings, it begs the question: Are restaurants ready for this and can they deliver to all their customers?
The Restaurant Association of South Africa (RASA) has been hard at work keeping their members informed on what is happening within the industry and what the Level 4 regulations mean. However, RASA CEO, Wendy Alberts, says that many restaurants are nervous about re-opening at full capacity.
“This is uncharted territory that we are going into. There are a number of restaurateurs that are looking forward to getting the economy going and bringing their staff back to work. However, I definitely think the consumer is more excited than we are,” she said.
Not all restaurants are going to re-open. Last week it was reported that restaurants under the Spur Group will not be operating during this time. Ocean Basket has also reportedly confirmed that it will also not be operating. Both groups cite operating costs of running large kitchens make it impossible for them to be a take-away only restaurant.
Famous Brands, which has the popular franchises, Wimpy, Tashas, Fego, Steers and Debonairs, said they will wait for the Level 4 regulations to be published before making a decision. “We are waiting for the regulations to be published before we understand the practicalities we have to deal with regarding the recommencement of business activities under Level 4,” they said.
Many restaurants are choosing to not open, especially since not being able to sell alcohol, means a loss of income. Prior to the lockdown, restaurants were already losing income because they couldn’t have more than 50 people inside their establishment.
So with deliveries being the only viable option, and sales of alcohol prohibited, it is likely that restaurants will only to be able to operate fully when Level 1 is reached. Restaurateur, Johan Swift, wrote a comment on the RASA Facebook group about this saying: ” We will remain closed until level 1. Operating expenses will not justify takeaways only.”
In the meantime, the food establishments which do choose to operate on a delivery only basis, are possibly in for an unprecedented demand. Time will tell if this new way of doing business will be a sustainable alternative.