How the restaurant industry can come together…

First published in the daily maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

Small establishments and large restaurant chains have been affected, many have had to close or have been affected in different ways, depending on their business structure, size and location, said media personality Maps Maponyane and owner of Buns Out, during a webinar hosted by the McCain Foodservice Solution Insiders Club. He looked at how the hospitality industry could respond and survive.

“Obviously we all had to take this crash course to run a restaurant during a pandemic,” Maponyane said, adding that restaurateurs are looking for silver linings to grow during this scary time.

“Covid was unforgiving – unforgiving from a health perspective and unforgiving from a business perspective, but I think this [also] highlighted the weaknesses and shortcomings of businesses,” said Grace Harding, CEO of seafood restaurant chain Ocean Basket.

She said sit-down restaurants have lagged when it comes to embracing technology or being innovative and efficient, but the pandemic has pushed them to become smarter and more strategic.

Harding also cautioned, however, that this should not come at the expense of unique parts of the industry that would hopefully recover and continue to change.

“Be very, very careful about the word adapt. This could distract from a working business model, as a sit-down restaurant will still be needed. »

Daniel Goldberg, co-founder of Bridgement, a small business finance company, said restaurants are being financially squeezed from all sides, whether it’s pressure from banks, suppliers or lower spending by clients.

Many Covid-related payment holidays, relief programs and emergency funds that supported restaurants at the start of the pandemic have also come to an end.

“I think funding can be an answer, but that’s not the answer. [only] response,” Goldberg said.

He said additional funding would be helpful if, for example, there was a plan in place to turn the business around and it required filling a short-term cash shortfall.

Bridgement, he said, looked at factors such as a company’s track record and existing financial obligations to determine if they would be suitable. If the restaurant did poorly and ran at a loss, however, financing would be a bad way to go. “There is certainly no single answer to this.”

Tessa Purdon, content manager for the Food24 and EatOut websites, said she witnessed various “hands-on pivots”. “We have seen that, for seated restaurants, the concept of take-out and delivery has become crucial. It is therefore a question of modifying or creating dishes adapted to this format.

They also see smaller menus, fewer staff members and reduced inventory levels. Purdon said that didn’t mean losing what the restaurant brand stood for, but rather focusing on and strengthening key signature offerings.

She also indicated that it has become particularly important to have an accessible online presence, even if it is not extensive.

“Covid-19 has obviously definitely accelerated the whole evolution towards digital modes of operation,” Purdon said. “It’s also thinking a bit outside the box about other online opportunities that might exist.”

One of the important ways for the industry to weather the pandemic storm was to stick together.

“The wonderful thing about the pandemic is that there’s more of a realization that we need to be healthy as a community,” Harding said.

Catharina Bester, marketing manager for McCain Foods SA, said the industry, from suppliers to restaurants, had come together: “I think we’re all aiming for the same thing and some of those boundaries have been broken down.” DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly newspaper Daily Maverick 168 which is available for R25 from Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. To find your nearest retailer, please click on here.

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Cecil N. Messick