Simbisa Brands operates at 25%, cuts down supply orders and derails expansion plan due to COVID-19

ZIMBABWE – Simbisa Brands, Zimbabwe’s largest fast-food restaurant operator rejigs operations following the commencement of the level 2 lockdown instituted in the country in response to the rise of COVID-19 infections.

In a bid to keep the virus at bay, the government of Zimbabwe has locked down the country for 30 days where only essential services such as food outlets are allowed to operate from 8am to 3pm but they should not have any sit in customers as all gatherings have been banned.

To this end, the owner of Galito’s Africa brand has reduced its operating capacity to 25% while putting employees on a 14-day rotational shift system.

“Though it is still early days to speak with certainty, the company is operating at a quarter of its capacity.

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“We have devised a system where employees will work for 14 days while others stay at home as part of efforts to safeguard customers and staff. As a business we are prioritising health instead of profitability,” said Simbisa managing director Warren Meares.

Meares said the company’s employees working from home are receiving their wages, but monthly grocery hampers had been suspended to reduce costs.

Other than changes in its workforce, the company has reduced orders from suppliers, in a bid to reduce losses in terms of perishables.

“We normally use about 40-50 tonnes of potatoes a day and about 60 tonnes of chicken but we have reduced this to about 5 and 10 tonnes, respectively,” Warren indicated.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only affected Simbisa’s day to day operations but also its future plans.

As a business we are prioritising health instead of profitability.

Simbisa Managing Director – Warren Meares

The company is targeting to open over 25 new stores and employ up to 500 new employees this year, but has indicated that it all depends on how the situation pans out at the end of the 30-day lockdown measure.

“We want to open as many stores as we can this year because I truly believe that Zimbabwe is on the up and when that happens, we need to be up there too to make sure that we have our stores in all the areas we always wanted to be.

“We want everyone to be able to access our stores, so this is definitely a year of growth, aggressive growth and we are looking at employing between 400 and 500 new staff members,” said Warren.

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Simbisa together with other industry players continue to engage the government particularly on two key things, the extension of operating hours and takeaway and delivery services for non-hotel-based restaurants.

“Engagements with the Ministry of Industry are ongoing to see if we can find a right balance to allow for more home deliveries especially after hours.

“But we need to also remember that home deliveries do not bring many sales when compared to walk in customers. We will continue to engage but now we are sticking to the set operating hours,” he indicated.

The company operates fast-food brands such as Chicken Inn, Pizza Inn, Creamy Inn, Baker’s Inn, Fish Inn, Galito’s Africa, Nando’s, Steers and Vida E Caffe and delivery service, Dial-a-Delivery.

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