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Why do restaurants close?

28 Jul 2011

Opening a restaurant is not as glamorous as you’d think. Not at all.

You envision tasting dishes with your friends around a table with half-open wine bottles everywhere to finalise the menu that is going to blow people away.   The location is perfect, your concept is different and fun and you’ve totally nailed the décor with that funky little consultant who cost a freakin fortune. You’re good to go and your staff are trained to within an inch of their lives.

The reality is that everything costs money and it’s very hard to make money out of food.  It’s much easier to make money out of booze – and we all know how much South Africans love to complain about wine mark-ups not to mention the ongoing corkage issue!  And those especially-trained-by-you staff … they bugger off and leave you looking for more staff that you really don’t have the time anymore to train.

And it goes on and on.

Well known South African chef Pete Goffe-Wood's restaurant Wild Woods in Hout Bay recently closed its doors after only a year of trading. It didn’t make its next winter.  Pete wrote a column for us – read it here – it is extremely interesting. 

But to highlight a few points he made:

•    Capetonians hibernate in winter, Joburg people don’t.
•    The “winter specials” that we love so much are actually killing restaurant’s profit margins and then leaving patrons feeling very hard done by when the price goes up again in summer.
•    The decision to close a restaurant that was your dream place is an extremely hard call to make and is often left too late.

Read the whole column – it’s a personal account from someone who knows the business inside and out.

He is not alone, many restaurants have not survived the winter curse. To name a few this year: Mezzaluna on Loop Street, Café Max in de Waterkant. The immensely popular Brio1893 will be shutting its doors in August. What a gorgeous setting that was – was it the rent? Wasn't that institution The Sandbar in Camps Bay, perhaps another rent victim?

It’s astounding then to note the number of new restaurants opened up in Cape Town lately.  Check them out:

Takumi, Dash, Casparus, The Olive ShackIl Cappero, What’s On Eatery, Roberto’s, The Stone Kitchen, Dear Me, Act Restaurant and Play Bar, De Huguenot, Skinny Legs and All and Saboroso. To name a few.

Have you been? What are they like? Review them on Food24 and tell us how they shaped up. Our favourite review for one of these restaurants will win a R500 voucher.

If you know of recent openings or closures in the rest of SA, please drop us a line at and let us know, you are our foodie eyes and ears.


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