Johannesburg: It is a scramble to open as sit-down restaurants have finally been given the nod, along with regulations and protocols to trade safely. to open their doors. For nearly 13 weeks on-consumption restaurants were closed during the National State of Disaster Covid-19 lockdown, 10 of those weeks without a penny of income and three of them spent focusing on deliveries and take-aways. The Mozambik Group will immediately commence the roll-out of its restaurants opening.
“With the release of regulations our restaurants are ready to roll,” says Mozambik chief executive Manny Nichas. “We have developed our own set of stringent protocols, aligned with regulatory requirements, to ensure the comfort, wellness and safety of our staff and customers as trading resumes.” To that end new, no-touch menus have been developed and extensive training has taken place. This is coupled with extreme sanitization and social distancing practices. “It’s a new world out there,” he says, “littered with challenges. But it can still taste good.”
Nichas notes that while some restaurants in the group will open immediately, a few remain entangled in negotiations with landlords along with other challenges in a Level 5, 4 and 3.0 hangover. “So, it is kind of ready, steady go – but in many instances there remains a bucketload of variables and unknowns for the industry. Sadly, many restaurants will also not open again with substantial impact on both the up and downstream value chain.”
Nichas adds that with the impact on capacity due to social distancing, restaurants will likely be unable to claw their way back into the black. “We saw deliveries and take-aways break through the 20% of turnover ceiling, and with sit-down making a comeback I expect a slight shift away from the former with an aggregate achievement of 50% of pre-Covid 19 turnover – but it will still leave the sector staggering around after the sucker punch.” Nichas reckons that it would take 2 years or more for the restaurant industry to settle into stability.
Mozambik supports every effort made by government to slow the progress of Covid-19, but, says Nichas, “While some of the regulations do not make sense to all of us, experts must have agreed, somewhere.” He adds “But I think all South Africans share the same sentiment – we cannot wait until this flipping pandemic is over and done.”