News analysis
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  • Restaurants believe they may be allowed to open again in the second phase of South Africa's lockdown – strictly takeaway-only.
  • Plans include carefully managing collections via telephonic orders, so that customers never crowd counters, but with a preference for delivery.
  • Meanwhile, taverns in Gauteng have threatened legal action unless they get to operate under the social-distancing rules that predate the lockdown, with up to 50 people in a bar at any one time.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

South African restaurants and fast food outlets are preparing for a second phase of the national lockdown in which they are allowed to reopen, on a strictly takeaway-only basis.

Big players in the industry believe a decision on what President Cyril Ramaphosa referred to as a phased reopening of the economy will include them, one way or the other.

Acting on that belief, both independent operators and large chains have started to make preparations. These include figuring out how to safely get staff to and from restaurants, with no or minimal use of public transport, and enhanced hygiene measures. 

See also: ‘Essential accessories’ for babies and toddlers up to 3 are slowly going on sale again

Restaurants, and industry bodies that represent them, are also considering regular monitoring of staff temperatures (fever is one of the early signs of Covid-19), and refusing to take payment by cash, which may carry the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Restaurant groups appear to have accepted that there will be no sit-down service, and a major focus area is on exactly how to operate with the minimum number of customers in their restaurants at any point.

At least one chain is considering selling food only via third-party delivery services such as Uber Eats and Mr D, which are delivering essential supplies. Others are believed to be considering open drive-through windows while doors remain locked.

In one industry survey, restaurants were asked if they would limit telephonic orders to collection only in the car park, or would allocate customers a specific time to collect in store.

Some restaurants are being polled on whether they believe they should be allowed to sell liquor with food.

Wendy Alberts,  CEO of the Restaurant Association of South Africa, says her organisation is in daily contact with the department of tourism about restarting the deliveries of prepared food. 

However, it is negotiating with government to secure concrete relief from rental payments as part of a potential agreement to partially reopen restaurants.

“It won’t be as easy as flicking a switch. Restaurants have lost a lot of money since the start of the lockdown, some don’t have the cash flow to just open their doors.”

See also: The SA liquor industry’s plan to get booze back on sale: let taverns do takeaways until 6PM

Meanwhile, tavern owners in Gauteng have threatened to go to court unless they are allowed to re-open under the social-distancing rules that were implemented before South Africa went into full lockdown.

That would mean allowing up to 50 people at a time into taverns, as long as each person has at least one square metre to themselves, but otherwise operating normally between 09:00 and 18:00 every day except Sundays and public holidays (such as the upcoming Freedom Day), when they would close at 13:00.

This, the owners say, will be the best balance between their right to trade – and stay afloat – and the need to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Manufacturers of booze have also argued that taverns should be allowed to re-open – but on a takeaway-only basis. This, they said, would minimise the distances people travel to buy alcoholic drinks while also allowing many small businesses to survive.

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