The Corona pandemic resulted in most of Cape Town’s food vendors being shut down completely. In other parts of the world restaurants were mostly able to do food deliveries over the strict lock down periods, we were not even allowed to sell hot pies!
Recently restaurants (& food vendors) could chose to open if they were able to do deliveries. In the next phase they were allowed food collection from their stores/homes. The latest addition is that they were finally allowed to sell off their alcohol collections. (Alcohol sales were banned in South Africa during our lockdown)
Many changed their restaurants into essential goods stores or specialist food stores over this time in order to add to their revenue. An example of this would be SeaBreeze Fish & Shell Restaurant that has become a fishmonger offering collection of Fresh Fish as well as delivery. Last week the restaurants were able to start selling alcohol and SeaBreeze immediately got racks up to display their wonderful collection of MCC (Champers!) This week they have started doing take-aways of their fish & chips and other dishes! They pivoted their business rapidly to respond to their changed business environment.
As a touring business I am completely shut down. The two sides of my world are tourism and the Cape’s food & wine offerings. As such I decided to try and assist the food industry as much as I can over this period. Cape Town and its surrounding winelands regions have become famous as a foodie destination. If we do not form a community and help our food artisans over this time, I am not sure that we will have a food industry to return to.
I started two initiatives to promote our Cape Town Foodie vendors of all sorts and types – ranging from the guys who are delivering farm fresh veg boxes through to the Chefs who are cooking from home. The first initiative is a Facebook Group called the Cape Town Eats Group. This group gives both the foodie vendors the ability to share their offerings and for their clients to share their experiences.
My second project is an interactive visual listing website where vendors can add themselves. They will be able to advertise what they are doing over this time. This website can be updated again when they return to being restaurants in the future. I am hoping that it becomes a foodie directory bible for the Cape as it grows. It is interactive and customers can leave endorsements and rate the quality of the product offering. The website is called www.capetowneats.com. This website is now 98% ready to fly and already has about 85 Cape vendors!
The aim of both initiatives is to create a foodie community that supports each other over these tough times.
My learnings over this time have been many. For the first time in many years we slowed down enough to think about everything in our lives. I realized that we had lost our sense of community. We were all too busy running in our own directions to analyse many of the decisions we made without thinking. I now think twice before I spend my money on something imported. I would rather support a local small business and buy their chilli sauce or their delicious homemade mayonnaise. Lesson 2 – support local. Lesson 3 – support small businesses. Yes our individual footprints can help.
It has been wonderful to see people pivot and launch businesses to survive through this period. Sadly support is not easy to access in Africa and unless you try to rescue yourself you cannot count on much support from our government. As a result it is a heart breaking time for our restaurant trade. Even if they open to do take-aways or deliveries – a very small percentage of their staff will be able to work. Most are also not geared up towards a take-away model of operation and would lose even more money if they tried to open.
My message to you:
Let’s all try and pull together and provide support for everyone in our communities. Lets become community activists and cheerleaders going forward. Share your local finds on your social media. Endorsements are important for small businesses. Lets fight to come out of the other side of this pandemic with as many businesses as possible!