The race is on between traditional restaurants on one side and outdoor eateries/mobile kitchens on the other. So far, it appears it has not been easy for traditional restaurateurs as many jobless Batswana have massively moved into the catering business within the informal sector.
Official figures show that the Covid – 19 linked economic woes have unleashed mammoth job losses for Botswana as hinted by the results of a survey carried by Statistics Botswana (SB) in 2020.
The Statistics Botswana’s survey that seeks to capture the impact of Covid-19 on jobs and businesses in Botswana estimate that the total number of persons who lost jobs or businesses due to Covid 19 in 2020 reached 67,132.
The national data agency says out of the 67,132 persons who reported to have lost jobs/ businesses due to COVID-19, only 2,720 (4.1%) were able to find new jobs.
A further breakdown of the SB data shows that females were mostly affected by the pandemic with a total of 38,906 females (58%) recorded to have lost jobs/ businesses whilst 28, 226 males (42%) was recorded for males.
Following this massive job losses and jobs insecurities for those who still have their jobs, many locals have now turned to procurement of mobile kitchens to serve fast food.
This has in turn created stiff competition between traditional restaurants located in malls and mobile kitchens operated by the natives.
A restaurant owner in Gaborone, Moagi Motshegwa said his business has gone down as most of his customers now buy from street vendors. Motshegwa highlighted that since the outbreak of Covid-19, he has noted with concern the mushrooming of mobile kitchens in the city.
“It appears that mobile kitchens are now the big thing in the city, our restaurant business has gone down, it is now expensive to run a restaurant outlet because one has to pay water and electricity bills and also to pay rent while with mobile kitchens, the cost is low”
“Another thing which makes restaurant business an expense at this time is that most people have lost their jobs and as a result there is only a selected few number of people who can afford restaurants” said Motshegwa.
For her part, Naledi Mogobe of Stylist restaurant in Mahalapye said her business is also struggling to cope with increased street vendors, adding that people now prefer to buy and leave due to Covid-19.
“The business is quite difficult at the moment, in our case, we have realised that most mobile kitchen owners were cut by hotels and lodges and now they are using their chef experience to generate revenue”
“Because the business landscape has tilted, we have been thinking of changing our way of doing business like introducing deliveries” said Mogobe.
She further said restaurants will have to adopt new ways in order to stay afloat, adding that the current set up of restaurant business is not sustainable.
An economist working at the University of Botswana – Professor Brothers Malema says the booming of roadside jobs, more especially eateries could be a sign that there are serious economic hardships in the country and people are feeling the pain.
While professor Malema calls the new trend a wakeup call, he also maintains that there are positives from the consumer side is that when there is competition – that is visible among outdoor eateries it means there is a variety to choose from.