Restaurants turn to crowdfunding to help staff survive lockdown

26 March 2020 - 09:22 By Steve Steinfeld
Restaurateurs have taken to crowdfunding to supplement the wages of staff as eateries shut for the 21-day lockdown.
Restaurateurs have taken to crowdfunding to supplement the wages of staff as eateries shut for the 21-day lockdown.
Image: 123RF/Oksana Mironova

SA's restaurants and bars have been having a rough time of late. Even before the president's announcement that they'd all have to shut for the duration of the lockdown, many were feeling the pinch as people steered clear of crowded spaces to protect themselves against the virus.

Some made the brave decision to close long before they'd been mandated to, not always knowing whether they'd be financially capable of reopening once the pandemic was under control. This is a situation that's been made worse by the fact that they won't be able to offer takeaways or home deliveries during the 21-day lockdown.

For many restaurateurs though, the main concern has been for the welfare of their staff, many of whom survive on shift wages and the tips they make serving customers. As such, a number are turning to crowdfunding sites to drum up public donations to help their teams get through the next few weeks. 

We have never felt panic like we are currently feeling
Tonic gin bar

This includes Caitlin and Dennis Human, owners of trendy gin bar, Tonic, and its sister wine bar, Tanen, in Linden, Johannesburg. “We have never felt panic like we are currently feeling,” they write on their fundraising page on

The Humans explain that, along with their young family, the gin bar supports six permanent staff members, who are all parents and breadwinners, adding that “to close our doors will have just dire consequences”.

Another Joburg couple, Eloise and Alex Windebank, have been heartbreakingly honest about the challenges their Illovo eatery, Farro, has been facing throughout this “colossal disaster of a situation”.

“We are doing what we can — trying to negotiate with landlords, applying for government funding, and all the bells and whistles that go along with it, but right now, in the short term, our staff need your help,” they say in an Instagram post calling for donations to their staff welfare fund on

Vicious Virgin — the new kid on the Cape Town nightlife scene — also took to social media to promote its staff relief fund on The bar, which is the brainchild of multi-award-winning mixologist Travis Kuhn, had opened just three months before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

The Vicious Virgin team seems optimistic, however, writing on Facebook, “when we are out of the woods, we would love for you to swing by and experience our hospitality first-hand”.


The public's response to such crowdfunding campaigns has been promising, and people are also helping their favourite restaurants weather the crisis in other ways. 

Steven Maresch of The Local Grill in Rosebank, Joburg, has been overwhelmed by his clientele's generosity.

Though he's closed shop, he's continuing to sell the restaurant's signature, aged beef ahead of the countrywide lockdown on Thursday Night.  “More and more people are coming to buy beef and adding gratuities for our staff to the bill,” he said.

Just so overwhelmed by the support of our amazing community. A beef sale today was R1000 over on the payment and...

Posted by The Local Grill on Tuesday, 24 March 2020