South African restaurants are stirring up new solutions to tempt taste buds as soaring food prices hit local pockets, raising the competition for customers.
Latest Statistics South Africa figures show that despite the easing of lockdown restrictions, food and beverage enterprises had still only recovered some 60% of their pre-pandemic income by March this year, with sales still impacted by lingering Covid fears.
Meanwhile, the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity group (PMBEJD) has revealed that the price of cooking oil jumped 53% year-on-year in May, potatoes as much as 22%, and beef 15%, once again placing restaurants at risk as households gradually tighten their belts.
Arnold Prinsloo, Chief Executive Officer of Eskort, notes that this has placed increased pressure on restaurateurs to develop creative tactics to keep customers at tables.
“The food industry is at a crossroads, and restaurants need to prepare for a major shift as consumers grow more price-sensitive by the day,” he says.
“More expensive meats such as beef and lamb have become particularly unaffordable, which has pushed resourceful restaurants to consider alternatives such as pork that will appeal to their budget-conscious customers while still generating profits,” he says.
In a bid to support restaurants and stave off passing higher costs to consumers, Eskort has therefore entered into partnerships with several leading local restaurants to place more pork on the menu.
“Over the past two years, our sales team has worked closely with chefs and owners to shake up menus with unique pork recipes. This has allowed them to soften the blow to consumers without compromising on quality,” he says.
Restaurant partnerships driving value for diners
One such partnership has seen a famous South African restaurant chain pilot an exclusive Eskort menu at 30 of its restaurants around the country, including sites at Polokwane, Kempton Park, Pretoria, Middelburg, and King Shaka International Airport.
“Our customers have loved this menu so far, mainly because of the taste and variety of the pork dishes on offer,” says restaurant owner, Werner Brits.
“It also doesn’t hurt that the pork portions are generally larger for the same price point as beef dishes,” he says.
Werner explains, for example, that its deluxe, gourmet pork prego steak is available at the same price for diners as a standard beef burger. Similarly, its 375g pork schnitzel carries the same price tag as a 300g chicken schnitzel, also making it an extremely popular dish among patrons.
“People resonate with national brands such as Eskort. You know what you’re getting for your money, and once you’ve become acquainted with a brand’s quality and value, you go back to it time and time again,” he says.
As one of Gauteng’s favourite pub and grills, the GrubHouse has enjoyed similar success, with Eskort pork having been a mainstay at its diners since opening its first location in October 2020.
The GrubHouse uses Eskort pork on its pizzas, burgers and breakfast dishes, as well as offering diners a selection of ribs, eisbein and pulled pork.
“Quality has been our number one priority right from the beginning, which is why we have always insisted on quality meat and ingredients,” notes Andrew Crain, a professional chef and the GrubHouse’s menu development expert.
“After Covid-19, many restaurants kept cutting quality to make their food more affordable, but using pork has allowed us to continue offering great value and taste while keeping our prices lower than the other big names in the industry.
“Menus need to be affordable for customers, and the challenge for restaurants over the next few months will be striking the right balance between quality and price, which I think has been one of the main reasons that the GrubHouse has been so successful,” he says.
For those who don’t want to brave the cold, why not “chow in this winter” with Eskort’s range of convenient meat options.
From crumbed pork fingers, strips and schnitzels to Eskort’s Ready-To-Eat meals that include, pork lasagne, bacon mac and cheese, pepper pork pie and butter style pork curry, there is something for everyone. Enjoy your favourite Eskort meat in the comfort of your own home.
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