With the current carnage of restaurant closures in South Africa due to the country’s lengthy COVID-19 lockdown regulations, a chef and a winemaker have come up with a smart plan to save further eateries from going under.
Founded by Chef Patron Matt Manning of well known Cape Town bistro Grub & Vine on Bree street and winemaker and owner Alex Dale of Stellenbosch located Radford Dale Winery, the Restaurant Rescue Project (RRP) was borne earlier this month when the South African government re-instituted harsh social distancing regulations including the prohibition of alcohol sales and a curfew of 9 pm. A collaborative effort, RRP is an independent and industry-driven initiative to preserve the gastronomic culture of South Africa by saving the restaurant sector. In a nutshell, RRP is pleading to restaurant-goers around the country to back a favourite restaurant by purchasing dinner vouchers with an incentive to receive a complimentary case of quality estate wine.
The campaign began when Dale donated almost half a million Rands worth of Radford Dale Wines to Manning in a bid to keep the doors of Grub & Vine open. This generous donation allowed Manning to create a Restaurant Rescue package whereby food lovers were able to purchase a gift voucher of a dining experience at the bistro and receive a complimentary case of six (6) Radford Dale Wines (once the current ban on movement of alcohol regulations has been lifted). The great value gourmet package sold out in a matter of days providing a much-needed cash injection, which is keeping the lights on and staff employed.
Due to the campaign’s instant success, along with a pledge from other wine estates to provide premium stock, Dale and Manning decided to broaden the reach of this initiative in a bid to save other restaurants.
Says Dale, who is leading the RRP campaign, “our objective is to achieve a significant and rapid injection of cash for each participating restaurant to allow it to face two or three more months of the current lockdown regulations. Through the support of the public, our mission is to garner sales of 200 vouchers per restaurant and hence raise between R250,000 – R300,000 per participant.”
The funds are paid directly to the restaurant and there are no administrative fees or deductions. The key to the project’s success is the support of wineries to donate a significant amount of premium wine inventory to the cause. It’s a big ask especially as South Africa’s wine industry faces a collective R1 Billion revenue loss this year, however, the estates do have inventory and in these shared unique times, it’s about saving the wine and restaurant industry as a whole. There are a number of established wine producers that have developed significant export markets over the years, meaning that they have created a financial buffer to see them through the crisis. This is not the case for restaurants. RRP creates a back-a-buddy system where wine producers can give a lifeline to restaurant owners.
Only two (2) weeks into the campaign, Grub & Vine has already received R280,000 in voucher sales and is sold out. More restaurants and wine estates are now joining the project; including Aubergine with Lismore Wines, which is sold out too, SeaBreeze Fish & Shell with De Grendel Wines, and Cheyne’s with Journey’s End, the Pot Luck Club with Warwick Wines and Upper Bloem with Villiera; to name a few.
A website has been built, www.restaurantrescueproject.com which allows interested individuals to learn which businesses are participating and with the key message being to purchase a dinner voucher to save a restaurant and protect the economic lives of those concerned.