December 1, 2021

A harder lockdown will be fatal to the restaurant industry, warns The Restaurant Collective

Amidst the concerning new Omicron variant and with Covid-19 infections once again rising ahead of a looming fourth wave, the SA sit-down restaurant industry fears further restrictions and lockdowns during its busiest time when it needs to be fully operational to see it through the leaner months.

While President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday that the country would remain on lockdown alert level 1 for now, The Restaurant Collective (TRC), which represents sit-down eateries, has issued a warning.

“Any form of lockdown (on restaurants) will be like a death sentence; we have to continue to trade. We cannot handle any more disasters. The owners and crew of restaurants are on their last legs,” says Grace Harding, The Restaurant Collective (TRC) spokesperson.

According to the TRC, the sit-down restaurant industry of South Africa comprises more than 30,000 restaurants and over 35,000 taverns and employs more than 600 000.

Harding says the TRC is strongly opposed to a repeat of previous restrictions imposed on the restaurant industry. “Big gatherings are more like super spreaders than sit-down restaurants with naturally well-spaced individuals. Alcohol is not a problem in these establishments because it is typically drank as a companion to a meal. We aren’t the issue.

“We are Covid fit. We have invested energy and resources in curbing the spread so that it has become a way of life for restaurant owners and their crew. Our venues follow all protocols. We need government to spend time identifying where the real problems are and providing usable data instead of applying a broad solution – work with us and collaborate around finding ways to save lives and livelihoods instead of punishing the entire school because of a few disruptive children.

“We urge Government to stop living from crisis to crisis and to focus on a co-ordinated drive to get the population vaccinated so we can continue with a functional economy where we are healthy and safe. As an alternative to restrictions, restaurants can require their customers to present a COVID-19 passport. Help us to help you,” says Harding.

The real problem is that there are insufficient people being vaccinated, she says.

“In other countries they are imposing lockdowns on those who are not vaccinated. There is so much ignorance around vaccinations. Government should invest in proper education and drive this via talk shows, radio interviews, community talks, etc. They were able to organise vaccine drives ahead of elections – this should have continued. They need to act to de-mystify the science and dispel myths.”

The TRC says it is working on this same challenge to educate and assist restaurant owners on vaccinating their staff to make restaurants as safe as possible and get feet back through their doors.

Harding says: “We invite all sit-down restaurants and taverns to register on to take a short course (10 minutes) on COVID protocols and how to explain to employees that vaccinations are safe, dispel myths and encourage vaccine awareness and uptake.

“Once the owner or manager has completed the course he or she will receive a certificate from TRC endorsed by Discovery Health and the Department of Health to display in-store so customers can see restaurants are safe places where they can get back to living…and help bring the restaurant industry back to life. All of this is offered to restaurant and tavern owners at no cost.”

TRC board member and National Liquor Traders convener Lucky Ntimane adds: “We will continue to advocate for vaccination as well as push government on making alcohol restriction decisions based on science and not political considerations and to this end we will fight tooth and nail to keep our doors open and free of any unjust interference from government.”

Restaurant owners can visit for a range of free resources and assistance.

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