Here are a few of the restaurants that found new ways to serve homebound customers during the pandemic.
The Joburg-based pizza chain pivoted to dine-at-home boxes pretty early into lockdown. The blast-chilled frozen pizzas came ready for customers to add their own toppings, while the DIY kits came with dough, mozzarella, crushed Italian tomatoes and the customer’s preference of toppings.
“We offered our DIY kits on Uber Eats, as takeout and as delivery, which was great because we could employ some of our front-of-house staff as delivery drivers.”
Given the nature of their fare, El Burro had an advantage when they pivoted to DIY boxes. “We had our ‘Build Your Own Taco’ format already, so we boxed it,” says owner Nic Haarhof. “Essentially all fillings and accompaniments come with instructions to make various dishes. We do taco, quesadilla, burrito and nacho boxes. We also have a selection of side dishes to add, such as our guacamole and stuffed chillies.”
The silver lining has been seeing how strong the customer loyalty has been throughout the period. “It is very clear that if we had not done the boxes and had the support from our customers, we would not have survived.”
The restaurant’s owner, Marius De La Rey, reflects on the hard lockdown period being one of new growth. “The realisation that some people will not be able to eat away from home for an extended period of time forced us to make certain home experiences a part of our offering. The space in the market that we operate in is more about experiences than food alone. The entire experience value chain is what helps La Boqueria create memories. The different stages of lockdown demanded different strategies.” What followed were beautifully presented moreish fare such as their taco box and family feasts, a full scrummy dine-at-home meal for more than four.
Following the success of their dine-at-home three-course Friday-night Italian meals that came complete with a playlist, co-owners and partners Shayne Schutte and Michael Carter found a lot of room for growth in the online space. And so came the launch of their Mr Yum menus. “We launched Mr Yum with our full offering including Norwegian Salmon plates and our new cakes.” While their best-selling boxes are their chicken limone, melanzane parmigiana and meatballs, their pasta sauces, vegan quinoa granola and cakes are also very popular. “One of the real top sellers are our cakes. I guess people really wanted to indulge – at one point we could not keep up with the dark chocolate and hazelnut cake and the flourless dark chocolate torte orders!”
The Salt River restaurant tried out various methods to ensure their customers would be able to enjoy their favourite treats. “During the shift to the delivery model, we had to consider the user experience for our customers; we went from taking orders on Google Docs to redesigning our website to accommodating online purchases. There were many businesses that tried to offer us delivery services during lockdown, but we decided to deliver our food personally.” Sepial also took part in the #FemaleForwardFeasts initiative in Women’s Month, by offering a special box filled with goodies such as jasmine kombucha, chicken-and-herb mandoo in broth, and beef short ribs braised in soy-based marinade with mushrooms and kombu every Thursday evening in August. “After #FFF, we had a one-off menu to teach basic skills and techniques used in Japanese cuisine.”