Financial Mail



ý Food is often more than just about the food: it’s sociable. People want to eat at the kind of place where everybody knows their name and knows that they always order the scrambled eggs, sausages, no toast.

In the barren days of Covid-19, it seems that fundraisin­g has been particular­ly successful among these places — food spots that are valued parts of their communitie­s. But it’s not a solve-all.

Croft & Co is a neighbourh­ood favourite in Parkview, Joburg. It’s been keeping the bikers and journalist­s and after-school moms of Tyrone Avenue going for 15 years. Things were going well for it — so much so that owner Grant Ravenscrof­t borrowed millions to renovate the restaurant, which opened again in larger and upgraded premises. At the end of March it had the best two weeks of trade in its history. Then the pandemic hit.

Ravenscrof­t says the whole process has been an emotional roller-coaster. It’s difficult putting yourself at risk and asking for money, he says. “And you say, why should someone save this nice restaurant in Parkview? Why not help a homeless person in Limpopo? It’s a terrible thing in your head … You’re on your knees begging for people to help you, and on the flip side, if your ship sinks we all drown and no one is helped.”

Croft & Co has raised more than R236,000 on Gogetfundi­ng and another R40,000 or so via payment platform Zapper. Donations ranged from R25 to R10,000. Last month and this month it paid utilities, but not rent.

“I’ve been amazed by the support we got. I was in tears,” he says. The money can probably cover wages and utilities for two months.

So why are people supporting this kind of restaurant in this crisis?

“It’s a connection to people,” says Ravenscrof­t. “I think it’s a very difficult thing to go crowdfundi­ng when you’re part of a franchise. When you’re a neighbourh­ood restaurant where clients come and hang out, we have a closer relationsh­ip with people who support us. They know the staff by name.

“The aim is to try keep the shop open, to prop up some salaries and expenses. A misconcept­ion about crowdfundi­ng is that everything is for the staff, but the reality is if we’re not paying insurance and utilities we don’t have a business.”

It’s not financiall­y feasible for larger restaurant­s to open under the level 4 lockdown as they can’t justify

The Service Station it financiall­y. “We’re different to a Seattle Coffee shop with two people,” says Ravenscrof­t. “We’re trying to prop up the shop for as long as we can in helping the staff and with basic costs.”

Croft & Co has started selling takeaway coffees and doing home deliveries. It’s not making much from this, but “we’re trying to stop the bleed. We realistica­lly are not making money, but have this scorecard ticking over. We’re also trying to show the people who have supported us on crowdfundi­ng that I’m not lying down and playing dead. We’re trying to make a go of it … here I’m hustling, trying to stay alive.”

The Service Station in Melville has raised R83,405 of a target of R96,000 from 81 backers. It got creative, and if someone donates R500 or more they receive a takeaway voucher for R250. More than R1,000, and they receive a takeaway voucher for R500. Owner Carmen van der Merwe says she thinks the support has to do with the fact that the Service Station has been around for 20 years and has “a very personal relationsh­ip with most of our clients — many of them have been coming to the Service Station for 20 years”.

There are a slew of initiative­s to bolster restaurant­s. The Eat Out Restaurant Relief Fund has been created to offer financial support to

 ??  ?? Croft & Co
Croft & Co
 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa