Last week saw restaurant reopen for sit-down customers in South Africa, having being closed for three months due to lockdown.
Lobby group, the Restaurant Collective (R|C), said that while this is cause for some celebration, many owners remain sceptical about their ability to turn any profits – or pay off huge debts accumulated in the last few months – given the restriction on alcohol consumption.
Under enhanced level 3 lockdown, alcohol can be bought on premises, but may only be consumed at home.
“There are no countries in the world that have opened sit-down restaurants without alcohol,” R|C said. “Eating out for many is time out. Where people want to catch up, spoil themselves and enjoy an eating experience that is not possible to have at home.
“Part of going out to a restaurant to eat is the entire consumer experience and alcohol plays an integral part in that experience.”
The R|C noted that many sit-down restaurants are simply not sustainable without the sale of alcohol; a vital profit centre, with up to 70% of profit coming from these sales.
The group conducted research among its sit-down restaurant members a week after re-opening. It found that most (76.5%) are massively down for the year.
More than half (55%) of respondents have cut their staff complement by more than 50%, and around a third (30%) of respondents have cut their staff complement by less than half.
A third (32%) of restaurant owners feel disheartened about the future, while 37% are uncertain about the future.
Three quarters of respondents said that customers are patient and happy with the current protocols.
There is a solution
R|C said that while there may be concerns for ‘pubs’ and the current serving of alcohol, sit-down restaurants are well suited to continue serving alcohol.
“We ask that sit-down dining establishments that already have ‘On Consumption’ liquor licenses be allowed to serve alcohol – with reasonable regulations,” it said.
These sit-down restaurants would agree to limited hours for the sale of alcohol – between 12h30 and 21h00 is suggested – and all alcohol sales would have to be accompanied by meal orders.
Alcohol sales would also be limited to beer and wine only as these are the drinks most commonly paired with food, it said.
“To stimulate the sector and save jobs and entrepreneurial businesses, we need to enable these establishments to make a profit once again in a flagging economy. Restricting the sale of alcohol will only further hamper the success of these small businesses,” the lobby group stressed.
It said that hygiene standards are already in place at these restaurants and good social distancing protocols are being practiced. Reduced menus are in place and QR codes and online menus being used to facilitate social-distancing.
In short, any establishment that primarily sells food can serve alcohol with the following guidelines:
- Alcoholic beverages to be sold between 12h30 and 21h00 only with meals;
- No drinks to be served after the meal;
- No standing allowed and bar counters to be off limits;
- No alcohol promotions/special events/offers;
- No loud music and dancing;
- Beer and wine sales only.