Dusty Miller: Naughty Noughts Hit Eating Out

REGULAR readers know of the struggling local hospitality sector’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 1’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 NIPC’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 –or even if—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-–– then — a probably unaffordable to most, $25 trillion, or $2 500 revalued.

Coincidentally I stayed at the world-renowned five-star hotel on August 29 — sensibly, given the wild excesses of my good friend Nikki Lear’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 Zimbabwe’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, sautéed 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-fest… 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

 

 

 

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