Staying open during winter is the biggest challenge
facing Cape Town restaurants – we experience a huge seasonal dip between May and October – Capetonians just seem to hibernate.
It must be noted that
Johannesburg has no such dip, they have year round support from their locals
with the obvious exception when everyone disappears over Christmas and New
The frightening reality is that most restaurants are happy just to
break even over this period and the main reason they do this is to retain staff
for the busy summer season.
The new marketing madness
Winter Specials are
killing restaurants, they are offering menus and deals that they make virtually
no profit out of in order to get bums on seats. The main problem is that now
the locals expect to get something for nothing and then begrudge having to pay
full price when the summer comes. We are caught in a catch 22 of our own
What always annoys me is that every year we have the same complaints from
Capetonians that we put our prices up over summer because of the tourists (from
up north and abroad). Well Capetonians, if we got a little more support during
the winter we wouldn't be relying on the summer months to carry us through the
Closing up shop
As a restaurateur you also need to be able to look at your business
unemotionally as we did with Wild Woods in Hout Bay; my partner and I realised
that as much as the bistro was our first love we weren’t prepared to put money
into the business to keep it afloat during our second winter. So we closed up
shop – it was a difficult decision considering all of the time and effort that
went into it but it was the right decision.
I think that sometimes it is a hard call for restaurateurs to make; as we all
know there are some giant egos out there and sometime operators don’t want to
see what would be an obvious business decision in any other field. This often
results in racking up huge debt often leaving suppliers holding the baby.
I was actually annoyed by a recent Weekend Argus article by Helen Bamford that
reported that Wild Woods, Jardine’s and Haute Cabriére had gone belly up –
implying that we had in actual fact gone bankrupt!
Both Jardine's & Haute
Cabriére’s leases came to an end and a decision was made not to renew - in
Jardine’s case because other projects had taken the partners in different
directions and in Cabriére’s instance Matt Gordon decided not to continue but
the estate and management team of the restaurant are currently refurbishing
and will be continuing as normal.
My gripe with this shoddy journalism is that
it paints a dark picture of restaurateurs – of the three mentioned only two actually
closed and all of their staff and suppliers were taken care of.
But there is not doubt that there is unbelievable pressure on restaurants
during these recessionary times.
Kitchen Cowboy's Canteen
Elize and I are currently open for lunch from Monday to Friday at the Kitchen
Cowboy’s Canteen at 20 Brickfield Rd, Woodstock.
We have a very informal daily
changing menu where we cook home from home food, our target audience being all
of the people working in this neck of the woods who want something affordable and sumptuous to see them through the day.