How to add restaurants back to the menu? A discussion hosted by Johannesburg In Your Pocket

Closed since the start of South Africa’s lockdown on March 26, there seems to be no indication of when exactly restaurants will reopen for sit-down guests and how, but one thing is for sure, rethinking the restaurant experience is a challenge every restaurateur has to confront. On June 8, 2020 we hosted a discussion on how South Africa’s protracted lockdown is affecting the restaurant industry, titled: ‘How to add restaurants back to the menu?

Johannesburg In Your Pocket publisher Laurice Taitz-Buntman was joined by David Higgs, chef and co-owner at Saint and Marble restaurants, Sakhumzi Maqubela owner of the famous Sakhumzi restaurant on Vilakazi Street in Soweto, and Saul Mervis, co-owner of The Grillhouse restaurants.

In this online panel discussion the three restauranteurs discussed the unique challenges that their businesses have faced during this lockdown, and how they have tried to overcome them.

Key topics covered in this panel discussion:

THE CHALLENGES OF RUNNING RESTAURANTS PRE-COVID 19: There were already challenges in the industry such as over-saturation, ever-decreasing margins, and high rents. How can the industry overcome these issues as part of a great ‘reset’ and what will restaurants need to do to survive?

PAYING STAFF DURING LOCKDOWN: Scores of people working in the tourism and hospitality industries have not received any form of UIF payment despite contributing to the fund. Crowd-funding, rental negotiations and delayed supplier payments – how do you find wages for staff while the restaurant is closed?

LEARNING FROM STAFF DURING LOCKDOWN: The lockdown has been a new opportunity for the restaurant industry to listen and learn from staff about how teams work. Enhanced training and communication is key during lockdown, to use this time to create a more harmonious work environment and a deeper sense of ‘ownership’.

SAFETY, CLEANING AND SANITISATION: What will restaurants need to do to ensure customers feel safe and how can restaurants already begin the process of training and upgrading to meet the new safety and cleaning protocols that are expected?

DIVERSIFYING WHAT YOUR RESTAURANT OFFERS: What are some more innovative ideas to diversify restaurant offerings such as making better use of quieter ‘downtime’ hours to develop other business or launching new combined offerings such as dinner-concerts?

TAKEAWAYS AND DELIVERIES: Our panelists menus feature live fire, steaks, and buffets, which are not suitable for delivery. How do you change the menu to suit this environment and will it be financially viable? Can, and should, you try to run on a takeaway-only basis or engage with third-party delivery?

DON’T COMPETE WITH SOMETHING BEING OFFERED ONLINE: As consumers become used to deliveries, retail businesses with physical storefronts are in danger of disappearing. Restaurants need to think about how they will emphasise their unique qualities of hospitality, ambiance and environment to remain relevant in a world now dominated by digital experiences.

Watch the full panel discussion online here

Grab a drink or a cup of coffee and settle in for 60 minutes to watch the video on YouTube

Next up on June 17: Can you be a tour guide without tourists?

At the next webinar in our series we will be talking to some of Joburg’s most celebrated local tour guides; Gerald Garner from JoburgPlaces, Kennedy Tembo from MicroAdventure Tours and Jo Buitendach from Past Experiences. We’ll focus on what the future holds for South Africa’s tour guides in a market that is set to become more dependent on local tourism and how each has remained engaged with their customer base during lockdown.

Can you be a tour guide without tourists? Guiding through the lockdown city takes place on Wednesday June 17 at 15:00. Registration is essential. Register here.

In May we launched our Johannesburg In Your Pocket webinar series, talking to tourism and hospitality businesses about what it is like to operate during these strange times, and how to prepare for a future tourism landscape where social distancing will be the norm.

We kicked off the series on May 27 with the team from Indaba Hotel, Spa & Conference Centre in Fourways, Johannesburg, shedding light on what it is like to operate as a quarantine hotel. Check out the Life Inside a Quarantine Hotel webinar and talking points here.

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