Job losses in a myriad of industries have made it more urgent for individuals to start their own enterprises, with inclusivity at the centre of these businesses. Additionally, the African hospitality industry (beverage and events) needs to realise that creating trends is better than following them. With the assistance of governments investing in entrepreneurs, perhaps we’ll be able to create multi-opportunities post-Covid-19.
According to a 2019 report by The Small Enterprise Development Agency, “In the first quarter of 2019, the SMME sector provided employment to 10.8 million people in South Africa, which accounts for 66% of all jobs (16.5 million) in the country. Of these, only 2.55 million jobs were for the SMME owners themselves, while the balance of 8.3 million jobs (or 77%) were for their employees.” This illustrates that SMMEs are the biggest employers in the country and that entrepreneurs (in the hospitality industry) should be offered the support they require to reverse the damage caused by the pandemic.
Other than employment, diversity and inclusivity need to be prioritised in the hospitality industry if it wants to grow and offer more than the conventional packages to locals and international travellers. The continent houses thousands of cultures, however, these are not reflected in the industry.
Everything is linked and although these might have different interpretations from region to region, classic cocktails exist as guidelines for not only as a base in understanding flavour profiles, but also setting international standards. CAREERS MAGAZINE chats with Sarah Murphy from Mobile Bev. Pros in the US to better understand how other parts of the world are dealing with the pandemic.
Why have you chosen to work in the mobile bar industry?
The mobile bar industry is attractive to me because I’m able to have greater control over my schedule. I left the restaurant hospitality industry shortly after having my first baby because, here in the US, the restaurant industry has super long hours and I decided I wanted to spend more time with my family.
Should you expand, would you consider Africa, and why?
I hold Danny Myers’ philosophy to running businesses, in that I prefer to be able to physically visit my businesses every day, but I would happily provide coaching and business strategy assistance to anyone who wanted to start and run their own mobile bar in Africa.
What do you enjoy most about the hospitality industry?
The joy of hospitality is in the service component. To be in service of others is my definition of a life’s purpose. There is something magical about offering that service through the provision of food and beverage. If done well, it’s the perfect offering of sustenance to nourish the body and service to nourish their soul.
The relationship between the hospitality industry and exploitation seems to be symbiotic worldwide, how is the mobile bar industry tackling this challenge?
I honestly don’t know if the mobile bar industry is doing anything intentionally to tackle exploitation. I do know that most of the mobile bar owners I know have very small staff, and because of the nature of our business they tend to be very selective in who they hire, and they pay very well.
I also think there is a push for mobile bar owners to buy local and organic produce and juices whenever possible, which obviously shifts the buying power away from factory farming (who definitely exploit workers) over to the farmers in their local communities.
How has the pandemic affected the hospitality industry, especially the mobile bar industry?
The pandemic has had an incredible impact on the hospitality industry. Many businesses won’t make it through the pandemic, or if they do, there’ll be a mountain of debt they’ll have to somehow pay off, which is hard, as the margins for most hospitality-based businesses are slim to begin with.
Many of those who have made a career working in the hospitality industry are looking to pivot their skills into other industries that aren’t as hard-hit. This won’t necessarily leave the industry with a shortage of people to hire from, but will certainly remove many of the most skilled from the labour pool.
Food costs are also spiking as meat packing plants get shut down due to workers getting Covid-19, creating a shortage in supply, and thus an increase in price. This doesn’t impact mobile bar owners, but it does the restaurants, and thus the consumers.
The mobile bar industry has varying levels of impact. Some mobile bars that I know are already back to hosting events (though that could change at any time) and others, like myself, don’t have an event on the books until later in the year.
Host are afraid to book events, and business owners are afraid to take events, for fear they’ll have to issue refunds from deposits that they may have already spent in their attempt to keep the business afloat. Then there is the obligation of keeping my staff safe, so I’ve been reading the studies to see what I can do to protect them when in service again. Face shields, masks, plexiglass, etc. It’s a bit of a mess really.
Do you think a mixologist/bartender exchange programme between SA and the USA would better strengthen the hospitality bridge of the two countries?
I adore this idea. As someone who was an exchange student back in 2000, the ways in which this experience changed my life are too numerous to count. I definitely think an exchange programme between our two countries would be beneficial to both countries, and more importantly, the participants.