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Restaurant Operators Association of Zimbabwe laments COVID-19 effects bedeviling the sector

Zimbabwe’s restaurant trade is teetering on the brink of collapse, following a year of closure or partial operation, and with no end to the crisis in sight.
Restaurant Operators’ Association of Zimbabwe president Bongai Zamchiya says the non-operational or partial-operational status of restaurants since March last year has created a massive problem for the trade and up to half of existing operations are on the brink of permanent closure.

“We had hoped for re-opening of restaurants in the March 1 update announcement, with permission for half-capacity service for sit-down diners, but this has not happened,” he said.

ROAZ has carried out research into the effects of lockdown and a position paper has been tabled with the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, outlining the severity of the situation.

“We are fully supportive of the national effort to contain and eliminate Covid-19, but the current dispensation for the restaurant trade is no longer tenable and we face a huge level of business closures and job losses, not only in the restaurant trade but among the many suppliers to the trade,” said Zamchiya.
“The travel and tourism sector held a meeting with our Minister last week and we hope he will now take up our cause. Restaurants are key operators in the tourism space, which is a significant economic sector and traditionally earns a billion dollars in foreign currency.

“We are active in economic growth and contribute a significant amount to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority’s revenue, which is then used to promote domestic and international tourism.

“What appears to have been forgotten is that properly-run restaurants have a high level of hygiene and of operational standards, all of which are easily monitored and are highly regulated anyway.”

He said restaurants around the country varied in size from small stand-alone operations to large corporate operations and for many this is the only source of income. While some people considered restaurants a luxury, they were in fact essential operations for many working or disabled people and an important part of business and social life in the community at large.

“When we were partially operational in the second half of 2020 we showed that safe and secure dining is possible and easy to achieve, and we are requesting urgent attention to our crisis, and that of our suppliers, from farming through to manufacturing.”

Zamchiya said no relief had been given to restaurants, all of which were paying full licence fees, despite being closed or only partially open for takeaways.

“In fact, most restaurants are faced with full costs related to rentals, wages and other inputs, but we have no income, while those that are able to do takeaways report income of between eight and 20 percent of pre-lockdown levels,” he said.

“We are, quite literally, at a crossroads and we appeal for urgent attention to avert a disaster for the trade and many of its suppliers.”

Tendai Guvamombe