A State of Emergency has been declared following reports of the COVID-19 in South Africa. This is going to have a dramatic impact on the economy, and specifically the hospitality industry. Businesses are going into crisis mode – either closing shop or resorting to desperate measures to stay afloat, so I approached Edith Venter, CEO of Edith Venter Promotions, how businesses can minimise the impact of the COVID-19, and how to make a comeback with a bang!
Disclosure: This interview was conducted following the president’s first national address of the COVID-19 situation and rules. At the time of writing this, restaurants were still allowed to remain open with 50 pax, but now it is lockdown for everyone, so obviously some answers may not in line with the current situation – like home delivery of prepared meals and bottles of wine and online wine orders. Please familiarise yourself with the current laws affecting your business.
Is it irresponsible for restaurants to serve food or for diners to eat out considering COVID-19?
I do feel that at this stage of the situation we should try not to be in spaces where we do not know who is sitting next to us and where they have travelled from. Unfortunately, restaurants would be a high-risk area
How much responsibility should restauranteurs accept for protecting their staff and customers?
If they are going to keep their restaurants open then the staff (even waiters) should be wearing masks and gloves as they are exposed to various guests coming in and out. Training should be given around washing hands and the importance of stringent hygiene.
Are restaurants’ food safety protocols sufficient to protect public safety?
Generally, restaurants have to comply with health and safety regulations. However, because of the situation, I do believe that owners have to check where the food and produce are coming from, how it is handled, and how it is being transported.
You help promote events. What should businesses be doing to promote themselves?
They should be posting media reports on what they are doing to protect their guests and staff. Possibly cut down on menus so that they can make sure everything that is being served is fresh and hygiene is being followed stringently
What should businesses not be doing to promote themselves?
Not taking the threat of a major pandemic seriously and trying to carry on as normal. Nothing is normal at the moment.
If customers are looking for extra value, how can restaurants do so without discounting their service?
If they cut their menus, they will save on wastage and make sure everything is fresh and healthy. This way they will be able to give better pricing on meals.
How can customers support their favourite restaurant if they prefer to stay at home?
Ask if they can do take-outs. Order by telephone or online and go and collect in a safe environment.
Are food delivery services a financially viable solution for restaurants or should restaurants be offering deliveries themselves?
I do believe that these services are going to do very well in the current climate. However, it is important that the delivery people need to be making sure that they wipe down their vehicles/scooters and especially where the deliveries are stored. Gloves and masks are a necessity. I know that people ordering will feel more comfortable
Do you foresee any longterm benefits following COVID-19?
I think that personal and venue hygiene will become a way of life which will be a good thing for everyone concerned. Also taking sustainability of our planet more seriously. It is because of how animals and environment have been treated in certain countries of the world that we are in this position. We need to be a little kinder to everything around us and one another
Any suggestions for restaurants to bounce back into business after the State of Emergency has been lifted?
Start planning that “coming out” party and menu and make your customers look forward to that day. It is really important to stay positive – this will pass
Final question: What is your favourite meal?
Something simple – a great salad/vegetables and a piece of beautifully prepared salmon. However, a bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne or a 50-year-old single malt whiskey would not go amiss!
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