Financial Mail


- Brik Café Adele Shevel

How restaurant­s are trying to stay afloat

restaurant­s. Pernod Ricard SA has pledged to donate R2m to support bartenders and waiters over the lockdown.

Chef Luke Dale Roberts requested donations for his staff at The Test Kitchen, The Shortmarke­t Club, Commissary, Salsify at The Roundhouse and the Pot Luck Club.

Anat is a Middle Eastern familyowne­d food brand founded in SA in 1992, known for its falafels and shawarmas. It turned to Gofundme to stay afloat.

Eloise Windebank of Farro was one of the first restaurate­urs to start a fundraisin­g campaign for her staff, closing shortly before the lockdown to reduce operationa­l expenses.

Farro has raised R55,000 off Backabuddy, solely to pay staff, from a target of R80,000, with 50 backers so far. “I think people are funding restaurant­s because they want their locals and favourites to be there when they get out. They know the chefs, the staff; they want to do their part to make sure these people are not destitute.”

But she questions how long one would have to crowdfund to keep a restaurant going. “People are not going to keep crowdfundi­ng forever,” she says. “I don’t know how to keep Farro alive. I don’t know what the parameters will be … I’m just trying to bridge the gap until I know what the other side looks like.”

What is preventing her from walking away? She has a surety on her lease. She’s tried talking to her landlord but nothing has been confirmed and if she defaults on the lease she will lose everything that the restaurant has, including the deposit, and contents wouldn’t sell for much in this climate.

“Lots of people are just calling it a day,” she says. “I think for lots of people that is the safest option, but I know a lot of restaurant owners who have five years left on the lease.”

Windebank says the restaurant industry across the world hasn’t been in a good place for a long time, with high overhead and staff costs “especially in a convenienc­e society where people want more for less”.

Like many restaurant­s, it has not been financiall­y feasible to open under level 4. The cost of walking into the building and turning on the lights is too high for what deliveries would bring in.

Social distancing would mean Farro could seat only 12 people at a time. “It feels like restaurant­s are inherently broken.”

She says government funding is only for businesses where 70% or more employees are South African. And taking a loan wouldn’t be viable. “We wouldn’t be able to pay it back even after a year; we would be in debt forever.”

She doesn’t think restaurant­s will be able to return to normal before the peak of the infection, and that’s likely to be several months away.

“I think we did very well, also because we got in quite early. It gives me a sense of ease … I know I can look after my staff for a few months while hopefully the dust settles enough to decide what the next steps are.”

Despite not being able to work and earn, the team at Brik Café got together to help pack food parcels for NGO Afrika Tikkun, and owner Sasha Simpson asked for financial support to get through the lockdown, on Backabuddy. In the post she said she’d applied to every

Covid relief scheme and diligently filled out the paperwork for the Unemployme­nt Insurance Fund (UIF) claims but hadn’t received any support.

So she put out a message to raise funds for her team — the chefs, baristas, waiters, cleaners and staff. Because the staff is about 70% foreign, “our UIF claim has been denied and I have applied again for the fourth time. We’re holding thumbs,” she says.

Brik Café opened a year ago and became a popular spot in Rosebank serving creative, healthy dishes. During the lockdown it was granted a rent holiday by the landlords and took out loans to keep the business afloat, but it hadn’t managed to secure enough to pay salaries to the 25-strong staff. It has raised R33,000 out of a target of R80,000.

Has it made a difference? “We haven’t been able to raise enough to give each member what we had hoped, but it is helping the team that can’t get back to work this month. We are very grateful.”

Simpson thinks people who are lucky enough to still be getting a full salary have allocated what they would have spent to the restaurant­s they used to frequent. “The people who have donated to Brik are family, friends and our repeat customers — because we integrate into Workshop 17 in Rosebank we have some clients who have a coffee or eat at Brik every single day.”

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