South African restaurateurs and patrons breathed a collective sigh of relief when the country moved to a more relaxed stage of lockdown on 21 September. After a long lockdown period where restaurants closed their doors to dine-in customers because of government regulations to limit the spread of the coronavirus, we finally moved to Level 2 and then Level 1 lockdown. But what are the new regulations and are consumers satisfied with them?

Restaurants and SA consumers

The restaurant industry is very popular with South African consumers. And if you need any proof of this, a survey taken during lockdown showed that 68% of respondents planned to visit restaurants within the first 30 days of reopening for sit-down meals. The survey was conducted by Dineplan, a digital reservation company which said that the aim of the report was to allow restaurants to make informed decisions on how to emerge from the lockdown in the best way possible. Only 1% of those surveyed said that they would not be dining out at all in the foreseeable future.

Safety for diners and staff

It’s clear that consumers are happy to return to restaurants, but they want the safety standards to be upheld. The same survey showed that:

  • Most of the restaurant-goers would like safety precautions to be maintained, including the stringent sanitising of tables between customers. 
  • The respondents would like to see employee temperature checks and temperature checks for guests. 
  • Many respondents (73%) were in favour of digital menus, 70% of them wanted menus on their cellphones. 
  • The consensus of those asked (82%) indicated that they wanted contact-free payment options.
  • Respondents were in favour of employees wearing masks. They also wanted patrons to wear masks when they were not eating or drinking.

Latest government regulations

South Africa progressed to Level 1 of lockdown on 21 September following a steady decline in coronavirus cases throughout the country. For restaurants, the latest regulations include:

  • The number of guests allowed in the venue should not exceed 50% of the capacity of the venue.
  • There is a limit of 250 allowed at indoor gatherings.
  • Guests must observe a distance of at least 1.5m from one another.
  • Masks must be worn by patrons when not eating or drinking.
  • Employees must wear masks at all times.
  • Curfew time will be from 12am-4am daily.
  • Alcohol can be consumed in licensed establishments.

The South African restaurant industry has shown great resilience during this crisis, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Wendy Alberts, a representative of the Restaurant Association of South Africa, said in a message to the country’s restaurants: “I personally applaud you all for your relentless passion, tenacity and true love for this incredible industry. The people who work so tirelessly to serve us every day are elated to be back at work.”

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Author : Rudi Badenhorst