PSG aims to keep its clients informed of both financial and non-financial developments linked to the pandemic through a weekly newsletter and a series of webinars.

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In a recent update to its clients, financial services firm PSG looked at how the restaurant industry in South Africa is being affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and what the future holds for the affected businesses

Many small independently-owned restaurants and food-service businesses were forced to close during the initial stages of lockdown, in order to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, and many will be unable to recover from the financial impact now that the regulations have been relaxed slightly.

While some restaurant owners have restructured their services and are offering take-away meals and food delivery, others are not able to adapt, and have remained closed.

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Many restaurants had to continue paying rent and other operating expenses during lockdown, eroding business owners’ financial buffers. As a result, many will have no option but to close businesses that they have worked hard to build up over the years.

According to the current lockdown regulations, South Africans will only be able to dine in restaurants when the country enters Level 1. There is no guaranteed timeline as to when that will happen, and there may still be certain restrictions limiting the number of diners and the spaces in which they dine.

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“If restaurants are to survive in a post-COVID-19 world, they will need to adapt to a new normal,” says Adri Saayman Head of Public Relations at PSG. She holds an MPhil in Futures Studies from the University of Stellenbosch, and is also a research associate for the Institute of Futures Research at the University of Stellenbosch. She undertook the research at her employer’s request.

She considered the future of dining in South Africa, based on how other countries are handling the lifting of restrictions, and how it could be expected to affect the restaurant industry in the near future:

The future of dining:

  • Buffets and self-service stations are likely to become a thing of the past. Expect shared spaces to be minimised in the restaurant of the future.
  • Many eateries are using clear shields to isolate diners, either individually or through dining pods that are designed to isolate families from the rest of the patrons.
  • Some restaurants are using mannequins or teddy bears to “fill seats” and enforce social distancing, effectively leaving some tables empty. In Lithuania, these mannequins are being used to show garments by fashion designers.
  • With concerns about airflow in enclosed spaces, expect a rise in outdoor venues and dining.
  • Locally, a restaurant owner in Pretoria has resurrected the concept of the “roadhouse”, and Cape Town is reportedly getting a drive-in movie theatre again.
  • Menus are being replaced by digital apps and ordering.
  • In South Korea and Spain, there has been the rise of robot waiters and barmen.
  • Any remaining communal items, like salt cellars and pepper shakers, can be expected to be cleaned more frequently.
  • Restaurants may collect and keep the details of their diners for some time, to enable contact tracing.
  • In future, restaurants may aim to diversify their income streams, offering on-premise dining alongside takeaways and delivery services, to help and ensure their future viability.

“Remaining profitable while ensuring social distancing, will be one of the biggest challenges to the industry.”