Ocean Basket won't open on Friday – here's when it will consider selling food again
- Popular fish restaurant Ocean Basket won't be among those to start delivering food in Level 4 of lockdown.
- The income expected from deliveries won't justify the cost of re-opening its outlets.
- But - unlike Spur - Ocean Basket will start selling food while South Africa is still officially in lockdown, even given the expected restrictions.
- For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
While food deliveries are due to be allowed from Friday, when Lockdown Level 4 kicks in, Ocean Basket won’t open its doors yet.
From 1 May, the sale of takeaways will be permitted for both fast food outlets and sit-down restaurants. Kitchens can open for food delivery services only between 09:00 to 20:00.
But Ocean Basket CEO Grace Harding says opening the chain’s restaurants for deliveries alone won’t make financial sense.
Many restaurants face a difficult trade-off: while deliveries will bring in some income, it may not be enough to cover operating costs of re-opening bigger establishments.
The cost of delivery is also high: for example, Uber Eats asks outlets up to 30% commission on each meal ordered on its platform. And as restaurants start to earn money, their landlords are expected to take a tougher line in claiming rent.
Harding says the curfews during Level 4 also presents a challenge to Ocean Basket. “There are just too many obstacles at the moment.”
Ocean Basket would reconsider opening again if customers could collect takeaways themselves, Harding says. In current drafts that will only be allowed from Level 2.
Sit-down restaurants will only be permitted to host customers again at Level 1 of Lockdown. Even then, some restaurants like Spur have already indicated that they will remain shut if there are restrictions on alcohol sales and how many people will be allowed on the premises.
SEE ALSO | Spur restaurants will not be opening when hard lockdown ends for fear of ‘catastrophic losses’
In the run-up to lockdown in March, restaurants weren’t allowed to sell alcohol after 18:00, and were restricted to a maximum of 50 people (including staff).
In a letter to its landlords, Spur group's chief operating officer Mark Farrelly said that it would be “commercial suicide” to reopen under those conditions.
But Harding is comfortable with re-opening Ocean Basket restaurants under those conditions. She says alcohol as a percentage of sale were not that crucial for the group, and they could survive even if only 30 people were allowed in at a time.
“We are desperate to re-open. Ocean Basket has been left with no income.”
She is particularly concerned about the waiters who worked at the chain, and says permanent employees have used their own money to started a fund to help these workers financially.
When Ocean Basket does reopen, restaurants will pay its landlords a percentage of sales as rent, she expects.
On Tuesday morning, the Property Industry Group – which represents SA’s largest mall owners – announced that restaurants won’t have to pay any rent in April, with discounts of 55% in May and 45% in June.
But some of South Africa’s biggest retailers are not happy with what landlords are offering during the lockdown period.
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