Restaurants on Eat Street in Ballito’s Lifestyle Centre have joined the campaign to highlight the plight facing the restaurant industry in terms of the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, as well as loss of businesses by small business owners.
Restaurants were already heavily affected during earlier lockdown levels, having to close down due to not being an essential service, and with many staff having to be retrenched as a result of this. Bruce Rencken, owner of Lifestyle Centre, confirmed that Salsa Mexican Grill on Eat Street was a casualty of this initial lockdown period and will not reopen, while Katmandu has been forced to close its doors while in the process of applying for business rescue.
The reopening of restaurants under level 3 threw a lifeline, albeit a fragile one, to the industry. Since the new measures announced by the president on 12 July, however, the industry faces collapse. Alcohol sales are a significant contributor not only to turnover from a business perspective, but also to the whole customer experience. Likewise, dinner trade, by far the biggest contributor to turnover of restaurants on Eat Street, has been significantly curtailed by the 9pm curfew.
“At Lifestyle Centre, we have the strictest health and safety protocols in place, including regular sanitation and cleaning, availability of sanitizer at all tables, capacity constraints to ensure social distancing, guest registration, reduction of touchpoints with the introduction of QR codes for the viewing of menus on personal cellphones,” explained Rencken. “Despite the challenges presented by the lockdown, restaurants on Eat Street have made significant investment in health and safety measures, online ordering systems and the like, in order to try and maintain some level of trade. We have also tried our utmost to recreate the energy and vibe that Eat Street and The Market had become known and loved for within the Ballito community and beyond. The reality, however, is that both the alcohol ban and the 9pm curfew have impacted the industry significantly. Restaurants on Eat Street are operating at 20% – 30% of pre-lockdown trade, which is highly unsustainable.”
Although restaurants at Lifestyle Centre will not be participating in the nationwide 1 MILLION SEATS IN THE STREETS protest by blocking roads with their tables and chairs, they have added their voices to the calls for government to protect the economy by allowing businesses to operate optimally, within the framework of social distancing, extreme hygiene and joint responsibility amongst government, business and the populace, thereby saving jobs and, ultimately, lives.
“Government is obviously faced with a predicament and we certainly understand the challenges that Covid-19 has placed on society,” said Rencken, “but it is important for restaurants and other businesses to be allowed to operate without a stranglehold being placed on them. On Eat Street alone, 250 jobs are on the line. That’s 250 livelihoods, 250 families that will bear the brunt. Restaurants are an important part of life, the Ballito way, so we have gone to great lengths to prioritise the health and safety of our staff and customers to ensure that we continue to provide this experience to Ballito. But we need our businesses to be sustainable for the sake of our staff and the people they support.”