Food24 talks to… Mr Zingara, 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.
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.
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.
is the most challenging thing about running a restaurant?
A: Definitely consistency.
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
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
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