SOUTH AFRICA – A consortium of South Africa’s biggest food service suppliers, namely Unilever Food Solutions, RCL FOODS, McCain Food Service and Tiger Brands Out of Home, have partnered with leading food service distributor, Bidfood, to pool resources in an effort to support the restoration of the industry.

The food service industry has been among the hardest hit by the Covid-19 lockdown, with an estimated 1.8m people affected across supply chains across the country. 

Whilst some dine-in restaurants have adapted to lockdown conditions by offering home delivery services, for most independent operations and the smaller local eateries, providing a delivery-only service is simply not an option.

A recent survey conducted by the Restaurant Collective (RIC) among its sit-down restaurant members found that a week after opening, over half of the restaurants had cut their staff complement by more than 50%.

According to South Africa’s Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, approximately 30% of the country’s restaurants have already been forced to permanently close their doors.

The re-imposed curfew of 2100h is set to further stifle the trade that surviving restaurants have limped along with since they reopened on June 17, 2020 with the announcement of Level 3 lockdown, possibly forcing more closures.

“This collaboration has at its heart the many people which the restaurant and food service industry employs, many of whom are family breadwinners.

“Our priority has been to engage and partner with government agencies such as the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) and the Federation Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (FEDHASA) as well as the Restaurant Collective lobby group,  and to communicate and promote safe operations in the new COVID-19 reality,” says Stewart Jones from RCL FOODS.

Together with the TBCSA and the Restaurant Collective, a free app has been developed communicating and simplifying the management of the COVID regulations for restaurants, whilst providing clear guidance to keep patrons as safe as possible in accordance with the National Department of Health, The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and World Health Organisations (WHO) guidelines.

Further to this, a multi-media campaign is being developed to drive support for all local restaurants. 

The #OneMealManyThanks campaign aims to educate South African consumers about the millions of people that benefit from every meal purchased.

From farm to fork, every time a meal is purchased from an eatery consumer contribute to someone’s livelihood. Through this South Africans are encouraged to play their part to help save the industry.

“In many outlets, approximately 28 staff members directly benefit from every meal ordered. These are people who are reliant on their jobs in order to enable them to provide for their families, and even to stave off hunger, which will now be affecting thousands who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic,” says Catharina Bester, from McCain Food Service.

Towards the end of the year, when the Coronavirus curve is expected to start dipping, the hope is that restaurant trade will start to pick up substantially.

And although some restaurants won’t reopen, those doing their best to survive are leaning on the support of the rest of the food industry and their valued consumers, which are doing their collective best to mitigate the impact of the lockdown for the benefit of all in the sector.

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