WORDS: KIT HEATHCOCK IMAGES: SUPPLIED
Lockdown has been tough for everyone, but there’s inspiration and hope in how many of our artisan food producers and suppliers have responded to its challenges. Resilient, agile and determined to protect their teams and their suppliers, and to keep their clients in fresh, delicious food, they have created innovative ways to deliver safely during lockdown and keep their commitment to quality alive.
Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants
Once FFMM received their essential business licence their shops reopened to trade during lockdown but they’ve also had to adapt. “We’ve streamlined our offering and we’ve ramped up home deliveries. We’re working incredibly hard to maintain our ability to turn an order around within a day or two,” says Andy Fenner. As well as their grass-fed, free-range meat, they offer fun collaborations like their Friday “Burger Box at home” which includes rolls, sauces, toppings and the famous patties, and an Easter hamper including Hot X Buns sourced from Vadas bakery. FFMM delivers in Woodstock, Palmyra and Gardens.
“The entire thing has been a constant emotional and ethical debate, questioning my decisions almost daily. Being allowed to trade and actually doing so in a responsible way are two different things. Our aim is to stay open but also to keep my team and customers safe.”
On what happens next, Andy says, “Who knows how the world will look after all of this. People have realised that they can shop online and still get a great product. They’re also buying meat differently, for example ordering half a lamb, portioned and freezing it. We’ve always encouraged this nose to tail approach but it’s also super cost-effective.”
“I would like to say how brave my team is. They’re working tirelessly and their efforts inspire me. We’re all going through this together. The support we’ve received is worth so much and it means more to us than anyone realises.”
While SCHOON’s cafes immediately closed, their Stellenbosch Manufactory was able to continue baking. “As long as we have a platform we’ll be committed to two things: putting real bread onto the table and providing work,” says Fritz Schoon.
They had created their own home-delivery app in 2016, dormant until now but ready to go. They reacted quickly, also partnering with Kauai@Home, Buy Fresh, Wild Peacock (in their new food boxes sold through Yuppiechef ), Pumpkin Patch Foods and Uber Eats, to distribute their bread.
“Our SCHOON mobile app is super user friendly. Order today (Cape Town & Winelands) and two days later a highly sanitised, masked and gloved-up driver will deliver all your freshly baked goodies to your door,” says Fritz. You can order breads and pastries, freshly baked as well as frozen. “The frozen option is so much fun, it literally feels like you’ve just baked a proper loaf of bread or a batch of croissants at home.” They also sell sourdough starter, Gideon Milling flours, Usana eggs, and other pantry goodies via the app.
“For now we see it as a lifeline but convenience is becoming a key component of retail business. This lockdown makes it hard to judge the feasibility and we’re learning as we go, but there’s little doubt that the SCHOON online ordering app will become an integral part of our business. The response has been overwhelming.”
Restaurant-supported small-scale fisher programme Abalobi was already piloting a scheme to sell direct to the public just before lockdown. This was via a pick-up point at a Frankie Fenner store. For lockdown they quickly set up a home-delivery protocol and the Abalobi Marketplace app adapted to supply Cape Town homes with fresh fish caught the previous day.
This is safeguarding the livelihoods of the fishing communities that Abalobi is designed to sustain. “A fisherman can’t afford to go out and fish unless he has a basic income covering his fuel,” says project director Serge Raemaekers. “This urban home-delivery system isn’t the same as selling to restaurants, but covers that basic income. It’s also helping food security by allowing fishers to take the initiative in their own communities, for example in Lambert’s Bay they’re doing local home deliveries heavily subsidised to the elderly and vulnerable.”
Register on the Abalobi Marketplace app. You’ll be notified of each catch and can order for safe, sanitised, next-day delivery. The whole fish come cleaned and gutted with instructions on how to fillet them. Plus pantry items like pickled fish, sea salt, sour figs and more.
“I don’t know if deliveries will continue after lockdown or if we’ll revert to pick-up points,” says Serge, “but sale to public is here to stay. People are engaging with the story and it’s a win-win situation, building awareness of the plight of small-scale fishing communities, and a more diversified marketplace for the fishers.”
UCook’s meal kit service delivering weekly boxes of ingredients and recipe cards from a selection of 12 dishes each week, saw an increase in interested new customers over lockdown but are prioritising existing customers and implementing even more stringent health and safety protocols.
“We’ve limited the number of orders we can fulfil because we won’t compromise on this promise,” says David Torr, CEO. “We’re immensely grateful for the opportunity to continue supporting our suppliers and local farmers. We realised very quickly that a lot of their revenue streams have stopped since the restaurant industry has been shut down, so we’re strategising how we can support them, and partnering with initiatives that are already tackling problems in South Africa’s food system. We’re also in the process of testing other food delivery solutions.” One of these trials has been a Farmers Market box in collaboration with Oranjezicht City Farm Market who isn’t allowed to trade during lockdown and are working hard to find ways to support their farmers and traders and get essential produce to their customers.
“Our small-scale food system of dedicated suppliers, growers and artisan producers has taken years to grow to its current level of diversity and quality. If we want to preserve the fabulous array of choice, specialist products, organic produce, ethical products and more that makes our local food scene so rich and enjoyable, it’s essential that we support these and businesses like them.”
Operating in your hood: Cape Town and surrounds