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Food24 talks to... Mr Zingara, Richard Griffin

The man behind the scenes of the Zingara group and Bombay Bicycle Club.

04 May 2011
richard griffin

Restaurant ed Cath Shone and Chef Caro sit down for a chat with the passionate Richard Griffin.

He is an absolute force of smiling energy with a big heart.

Q: Your Madame Zingara Restaurant in town was a massive hit with Capetonians – why do you think it has not really been emulated again?

A: I suppose it’s a train of thought made up of a life time in an industry - and a certain genre and employment ethic. Our staff and our people are every part of the experience and, without them, our crazy hippy antics would not exist.

Q: How do you choose your restaurant locations?

A: Sometimes they choose us. Historical value is and always has been a major contributing factor. I realize it sounds hokey pokey and quite superstitious, but generally it’s a feeling of listening to the walls talk. Foundations are everything and a building tells a story. It is that story that evokes the creative process.

Q: What is the most challenging thing about running a restaurant?

A: Definitely consistency.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about running a restaurant?

A: Happy people – both customers and crew.

Q: What do you think of the standard of restaurant service in SA

A: It’s a problem. We’ve spent the last 3 months working on this within our own stores. On a personal note, I would like to build, not a company of great proportion, but a company of greatness where service is our greatest asset. Problems aren’t problems, if people are being correctly served.

Q: Do you try to stick to local producers? How true do you think CT restaurants are to this?

A: Generally speaking, our core focus is on supporting small to medium sized businesses and the majority of our suppliers have been supplying us for the past 15 years. On the Cape Town restaurant scene, I’d say yes.

Q: Do you use cheaper cuts of meat to fit into your pricing?

A: No – we use bulk buying. It is a constant war, and we are no longer able to operate within the same margins as we used to. At Madame Zingara, we have centralized buying with a fantastic team of negotiators sourcing products coming in from all over SA.

Q: What’s your opinion on vegetarian food? How largely does it feature?

A: Vegetarianism features in every outlet and is probably 10 – 15% of our client base. At the tent, our menu is in fact all vegetarian, with a meat and fish offering for those who choose to indulge.

Q: What do you consider a reasonable mark-up for a wine in a restaurant?

A: On average, for us, it’s twice plus vat but it’s not a fixed rule. On certain wines you are able to move huge volumes and therefore the mark up can be lower.

Q: What is your attitude towards corkage?

A: Cork away! Restaurants are a package – we provide service, atmosphere and everything on top. Our prices are based on this. Take R40 a head off, and very quickly you start to run at a loss. At the moment, with petrol, electricity, gas and just everything going up on a daily basis, it’s scary out there. Over season this year, we were too busy to watch the back end and had a very rude awakening in January when all the new prices started to sink in and we could get a clearer picture of what was really going on.

Q: How much do you think social media sites like twitter and facebook actively influence people’s choices for dining out?

A: Significantly. These two social mediums have totally transformed the way that we communicate with clients. Our Facebook sites are where we mostly judge our performance. Its instant gratification – not only for ourselves, but also for guests in problem solving and bettering guests overall experience.





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