Restaurant operators plead for sit down dining

TENDAI BHEBE IN BULAWAYO

Zimbabwe’s restaurant industry has expressed concern over government’s directive to ban sit down dining in restaurants as part of efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19 pandemic, Business Times can report.

Vice President, Constantino Chiwenga, who also doubles as the Minister of Health and Child Care, announced the new lock down measures last Saturday.

Dumisani Nkomo, the director of Hillside Hideout in Bulawayo said restaurants should be allowed to serve sit-in customers but practicing social distancing.

“It’s a rather rushed measure. There are other places such as market places and buses which are more crowded than restaurants. Rather they should have put measures for restaurants to practice social distancing and reduce seating space, “he said.

He added: “This sector is crucial as it is part of the food supply chain, and this may affect downstream informal sector vegetable markets and incomes.”

Tafadzwa Machirori, the general manager of Smoke House, said the company has since retrenched some staff members since it has not been generating a lot of business.

“The lockdown restrictions to operate on take always only have adversely affected our sales and our revenue. We also had to release our casual staff compliment as a result of the reduced turnover as it was not financially sustainable to maintain their contracts.

Although our turnover has decreased, most of our costs have remained. In order to manage these, we have had to put in place measures like reducing the number of active staff at the restaurant. We have also had to streamline our stock orders so that we still serve our community through takeaways without tying up too many funds in stock as the funds will be required at the end of the month to meet other obligations,” Machirori said.

She said the restaurant had purchased a lot of stock before the sudden announcement of the lockdown restrictions.

Restaurant Operators’ Association of Zimbabwe (ROAZ) president Bongai Zamchiya said the livelihoods of restaurateurs, staff and suppliers were on the brink of collapse and the only options available were urgent re-opening or immediate and substantial financial support.

Zamchiya said ROAZ had been encouraged by the government’s recent localised lockdowns as a practical solution to containing outbreaks in particular areas, while allowing commercial and social activities to take place safely in other areas.

“On the day of the announcement only eight new cases of Covid were reported in Harare but operators in the city have been closed to sit-down dining. There is nothing frivolous about restaurant operations and we hope for a willing ear as we pledge to support the anti-Covid-19 drive while at the same time remains in operation,” Zamchiya said.

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