REGULAR readers know of the struggling local hospitality sectorâ€™s dire concerns over perceived slowness of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and National Incomes and Pricing Commission in considering tariff increase bids.
Small stand-alone outlets report hearing nothing from either body almost a month after August 1â€™s costed menus were demanded and peremptory draconian instructions issued to freeze rates from that day. Total immediate embargo was placed on any price hike without NIPCâ€™s permission. Flout that and go to jail, was the warning.
Meanwhile, almost every input at least quadrupled in local currency, wages spiralled nearly 1 000% and beef and poultry soared 25% in forex deals in one day. Steak in Bulawayo on Friday was sold to the trade at US$7,50 a kilo, up from US$6 the previous day: that particular hike being blamed on a dearth of crucial stockfeed, due to the lack of grain grown during what we heard would be the “Mother of All Agricultural Seasons.”
This Catch-22 situation has caused several restaurants to shut, ostensibly for “annual leave”, but with seriously large question marks looming as to when â€“or even ifâ€”some will re-open and, if so, for how long.
Presumably major hotels escaped this reported dilatoriness. Along with other restaurant reviewers I took the annual Press “grand tour” of Meikles on August 19 when full English breakfast, or buffet lunch, in The Pavilion was what I thought-â€“â€“ then â€” a probably unaffordable to most, $25 trillion, or $2 500 revalued.
Coincidentally I stayed at the world-renowned five-star hotel on August 29 â€” sensibly, given the wild excesses of my good friend Nikki Learâ€™s excellent, glittering, 40th birthday thrash held there that night. Breakfast, granted one of the best in the world, was by then $75 trillion (or $7 500). Clearly the naughty noughts are returning, apparently multiplying cancer-like, with a vengeance.
As I almost literally bumped into ZTA chief executive Karikoga Kaseke outside Can-Can the previous night, presumably he was not unaware of that particular 200% rise in 10 days tops?
Such a hike was probably needed in terms of ever rising costs hitting all Zimbabweans, especially “the trade”, but candidly I know few people able to lay out such a sum, no matter how faultless the meal or service, how exemplary the surroundings. Surely the ability (or lack of it) of the punter to pay must come into the equation?
I suppose that as a 16-year-old school leaver, sans “O” levels, beginning in the hotel trade as a potato peeler, floor sweeper, toilet cleaner or boot black now STARTS on almost $51 trillion monthly, his seniors must easily pull $75 “tonne”, but what is Zimbabweâ€™s average take-home pay?
I suppose our four and five-star outlets know what they are doing as, amazingly, The Pavilion was packed: mainly locals but some visitors, wolfing and clearly relishing, bacon and eggs, sausage, beans, tomatoes, liver, steak, sautÃ©ed spuds, meat balls, Swedish fishballs in tomato sauce, toast, marmalade, fruit juice, coffee, cereals, oats, fresh, canned and dried fruits, yoghurt, cold meats, cheese, pastries, goodness knows what else.
And I enthusiastically joined in a thoroughly enjoyable artery-clogging cholesterol-festâ€¦ only sorry there was certainly no way I could do proper justice to $75 trillion worth of skoff, ironically at the end of a week in which bread (hiked 300% in four days) had apparently disappeared from shelves by the Tuesday.
By Dusty Miller