Cape Town-based chef Matt Manning championed for the restaurant industry throughout lockdown, holding insurance companies accountable for their failure to pay out business interruption policies.

In July 2020, after four months of no income, the restaurant industry joined in solidarity and protested the Lockdown Level 3 restrictions in place at the time. The Jobs Save Lives movement called for insurance companies to honour their contracts and pay-out the settlements to help the industry stay afloat.

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A post shared by Matt Manning (@mattmanningchef)

Fast forward 5 months and South Africa is once again under Alert Level 3. The country was given no notice about reentering into Level 3 on December 28, which includes a curfew of 9pm-5am and a ban on alcohol sales. Again the restaurant industry has been served a heavy blow.

English-born chef Matt Manning, the brains behind Grub and Vine, Chefs Studio CT and Culture Wine Bar, took to social media to express his frustration of the current restrictions.

“We should all be outraged by this and more questions should be asked of those who are making the decisions,” he wrote in an Instagram story on Tuesday.

Cape Town Etc spoke to Manning on the plight of restaurants and how the current restrictions in place under Level 3 has affected the industry as a whole.

“This time around things are even more difficult than before. Initially, there was a Level 5 lockdown, which meant that we, as an industry, had to close, and were thus in a better position to negotiate rental breaks, access UIF etc. We were hopeful that things would soon return to normal, and also confident that the business interruption insurance that we had all so dutifully been paying would cover us, while we stayed at home and protected ourselves and our families,” said Manning.

“In July, we were permitted to reopen, albeit without alcohol. But we still had our dinner service, and got creative with our non-alcoholic beverage lists. We were still hopeful that if we could batten down the hatches, things may get better,” he continued.

A report from StatsSA, published in July 2020 highlighted the fact that without the payout of insurance claims, 600 000 jobs were at risk.

Manning explained that now, hope is starting to wear thin and to safely serve between 30-40 customers in one hour is next to impossible.

“Nobody wants to be rushed at dinner. 90% of our business is dinner trade so this is a huge blow for us, as well as many others. Secondly, without alcohol our revenue will be down by 65%. It is absolutely crippling. Add to that a lack of tourism, and we have seen the number of people who enter our doors fall by 85% on last year. Also bear in mind that the busier summer months subsidise our quieter winter months. Without this buffer, the bloodbath of restaurant closures will continue. And while progress is being made and Wooley is doing a great job, the insurance industry is making life as difficult as possible by digging in their heels, and there is still no sign of our insurance payout months later.”

 

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He has been vocal about the insurance industry’s lack of support and failure to pay the life-sustaining business interruption policies that a plethora of restaurants are owed.

“Liam Tomlin did a radio interview the other day, and I agree with him completely that a far more nuanced approach to lockdown regulations is needed. I’m paraphrasing, but in a nutshell he said that the people having a glass of wine with their dinners tend not to be volume drinkers, causing a spike in hospital casualties. Last year we managed to get through being closed for 3 months. This time is much different, we simply don’t have the funds in the bank this time. The start of 2021 is going to be tough,” he continued.

“I know governments the world over are not very popular, and everyone has an idea of how things could be better handled – when actually none of us will know until this whole thing plays out. But I do think that in general, there has been a big mess in how this has been handled – it’s almost like government learned nothing from the first wave. Add to that their massive failure around vaccine procurement, UIF and PPE corruption, blanket- often nonsensical bans that cripple whole industries – and lack of support to SMEs. It’s a depressing picture,” Manning concluded.

Take a look at the #JobsSaveLives protest from July 2020 below.

Matt Manning and his team are offering a virtual dining experience for you to enjoy a 5-course meal at home. The elements of the menu are available for delivery or collection between Thursday – Saturday every week. Three of the five courses are already prepared, leaving you to create the main and starter through a video tutorial conducted by Manning himself. For more information or to place an order visit: www.mattmanningchef.com/virtual-dining

 

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Article written by

Imogen Searra