Pastry Chef André Steyn joined La Colombe just over a week ago, having worked at Delaire Graff for over three years. He attracted my attention with his creative desserts as well as forest Amuse Bouche presented in a glass bowl whilst he worked at Delaire. The Chef once had a dream to become an architect, and it is our restaurant industry’s luck that his life path led him to cheffing. Continue reading →
* New draft legislation calls for zero alcohol consumption before driving, with input sought by 27 February. Alcohol in medicines and fruit could lead to wrongful arrests.
* SAA has announced that its direct flights between Johannesburg and Mumbai in India will come to an end on 1 April. It will fly to Abu Dhabi, from where passengers will fly with Etihad or Jet Airways to Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, and Madras in India on a codeshare basis. This route cut, combined with the one to Beijing, will help reduce costs for SAA. Ironic is that SA Tourism as well as local tourism players is in India at the moment, on a marketing trip for our country!
* The number one World 50 Best Restaurants, El Celler de Can Roca in Spain, is taking its ground-breaking cuisine on a world ‘Roca and Roll World Tour 2014‘ , with pop-up events in different countries, starting with Mexico, Columbia, and Peru. It is not known whether Cape Town is on their world tour itinerary.
* Former Cape Times editor Alide Dasnois will take her dismissal to the CCMA or Department of Labour.
* Constantia Glen has created a new Tasting Room, using the services of top decorator Graham Viney, who has created a ‘fusion of European and Cape design‘. The wine bar previously was the stables and cow byre. ‘The Arts and Crafts, Victorian and Cape Dutch idioms employed all combine to make a wonderfully stylish, contemporary venue, with ravishing vineyard and mountain views falling away to the north towards Kirstenbosch and rising steeply to the south to the Constantiaberg’, said Mr Viney. The Waibel family, owners of the wine estate, have displayed their collection of pottery by Hymie Rabinowitz, who used to create his works of art on the estate. A dining room for private functions has also been created. (received via media release from GC Communications)
* To follow in the footsteps of the late Nelson Mandela, a number of sites are recommended to be visited on an informal Nelson Mandela Route in Johannesburg.
Having been on the receiving end of a deceiving, defamatory, and dishonest attempt to extract information about my guest houses from 2oceansvibe ‘Chief Whip’ Simon Hartley, we were interested to read about the dishonest past of 2oceansvibe founder ‘Seth Rotherham’ in the March issue of Playboy!
The article highlights the following about 2oceansvibe and its owner:
* Its slogan of ‘Work is a sideline, live the holiday‘, implying that the owner sits on the beach or at Café Caprice in Camps Bay all the time is obviously not truthful, and interestingly does not reflect the content of his website. Through the slogan he has created a profile of himself as a wealthy person who has hooked in some brand ‘partners’ at great expense to feed his extravagant lifestyle. Those who have met ‘Seth’ know that he works hard, writing for his website, and being involved in his Radio and TV stations 2OV. He has also run a luxury villa rental business (DG Rentals with the Dogon Group), but appears to have fallen out with its owner.
* A sensitive issue appears to be the use of the pseudonym ‘Seth Rotherham’, instead of his real name Will Mellor. When we sent an sms to ask him why he hides behind a false name, he referred us to Playboy, as he had been asked the same question by them. His weak reply was that he needed a clean name for the property rental business (but which he has not operated in the past 4 years), therefore using his real name for that business, and he created ‘Seth Rotherham’ for his 2oceansvibe website, as his ‘risqué party-times might not sit well with my daytime clients’.
* The article shares how dishonest he was whilst working as a Butlers pizza delivery boy, cheating the system so that he got the largest orders, guaranteeing him the largest tips, at the expense of his colleagues, and which led to him being fired!
* He explains in the magazine that he rarely takes calls (one a week, he says), wanting to be contacted on his terms, which is only via e-mail or sms, as we discovered last week, when I tried to contact him about Hartley’s information request. He explains that he is ‘actually quite shy. I need to be in my comfort zone and I don’t like surprises. I feel bad if I don’t remember people’ names. So, everything I do daily is managed digitally’. Having Will’s cell number, I attempted to call him, but I should have known that he never answers his phone. I sent an sms, and he (cowardly) wrote that he could not take the call as he was in a bad reception area (a predictable cop out), but surprisingly he was able to send sms’s perfectly, and almost immediately!
* His radio station 2OV, with Darren Scott’s Ballz, was embarrassed last year when IT expert Shaun Dewberry discovered that their radio listenership data was highly suspect and overstated. NetDynamix, the company hired by both radio stations to supply listener data, said the botch up was a miscommunication on its part and that the figures supplied to the radio stations referred to the number of times people had logged on to the station instead of the actual number of listeners. One wonders how someone as IT astute as Mellor would not have known instinctively that the numbers were inflated, and that he was misleading his brand ‘partners’ (including Pierre Jourdan – it was Boschendal until recently, Vespa, MINI, Mail & Guardian – just the other day it was still News24 – Block & Chisel, Puma, Jack Black, Vida e Caffè, The Westcliff, The Mount Nelson, De Grendel) in terms of claimed listenership! Will tells Playboy: ‘Darren and us (and indeed the public) were all duped by the same incorrect data’ – come on Will, you were paying the company to generate the data!
* The article claims that Mellor is karmic, and that he fired a staff member after four days of being employed, in not fitting the karma of his business, which led to Mellor being called to face a CCMA hearing, which he described as ‘not cool”!
2Oceansvibe has been a benchmark for bloggers, having been created long before most bloggers had even heard the B-word. Many envied ‘Seth Rotherham’ for his advertised lifestyle arrogantly communicated via its pay-off line. As a new blogger I had held Mellor in high esteem, especially after meeting him at a bloggers’ function. He generously organised a pair of Rayban sunglasses from his client Sunglass Hut when our hug led to my sunglasses being crushed.
However, I saw a different side to him and his business last week, when he allowed his website to post a story devoid of all journalistic ethics. On Friday afternoon we received a call from Hartley, mumbling indistinctly about a story he was ‘researching‘ relating to the SA Butler Academy, and requesting a radio interview. I told him that we were frantic, having had a large number of check-outs, and new check-ins expected for the afternoon. I requested more time, explained how busy I was, and asked Simon to e-mail the questions. He set a deadline for 3 pm, and would not budge. The two questions were not related to our SA Butler Academy blogpost at all (which it is evident that he never read, so much for balance!), and when I asked him to explain what the relevance of the questions was to the SA Butler Academy he brushed the question aside. He did not even send the link of the City of Cape Town’s property valuation roll, the crux of his story, and request an explanation. It is clear now that he was in a rush to leave Cape Town to get to Hermanus for the weekend, according to his Tweets. He did offer an opportunity to opt out if I did not want to respond, saying that ‘you will be credited as being unavailable for comment’, but that would have been dishonest, so I did not accept that option! I had sought advice from two communications specialists, and both encouraged me to do the interview initially. In the last minute however one of them sent an urgent sms: ‘Don’t agree to the interview. The chap is apparently not above board’. Seeing the story that Hartley wrote, the advice was spot on, as Hartley had not written about the SA Butler Academy at all, and had tried to dishonestly mislead me, not revealing the real topic of his story.
It made me wonder why 2Oceansvibe would have wanted to publish a non-story, with such a weak headline as ‘Outspoken Guest House owner Knee-Deep in Controversy‘! Short of traffic they are not, with ‘350000 unique readers and nearly a million page views in the past month‘, Mellor smsd proudly, and he was clearly annoyed and sounded almost threatening when I decided to turn the tables, and asked him a few questions, just as Hartley had done to ourselves: ‘Chris I think I need to make something very clear to you because it seems you might be going down a bad path here’. Quoting his readership and page views, he continued: ‘I say that to make clear the fact that it is no longer a blog, it’s a news outlet with 10 permanent editorial staff. Simon is the editor overseeing all of that. This is his job. I can only interfere to a certain point’. He continued, now clearly fired up and concerned about this blogpost: ‘Regarding standards, I expect my staff to be thorough and truthful and to give subjects an opportunity to respond. I also insist they include comment post-publication, if the subject was initially unable to respond. Again I must stress that I can only interfere with Simon’s work to a certain extent. He is a highly ethical person and known for his integrity. Chris I assure you that I am giving every effort to ensure this doesn’t come out as bad as it could, and will keep doing so’ (our underlining). Now please Mr Mellor, don’t think that we will buy that – you ARE brand 2Oceansvibe! You have been lied to by your editor, and the PR industry does not agree with your faith in Hartley either. ‘Response’ is not answering two questions unrelated to the false and misleading topic Hartley spoke about, meaning that Mellor’s instructions are not being followed by his staff! On the top right of the website ‘Seth Rotherham’ is introduced as ‘Editor in Chief’, with no mention of Hartley!
A long sms from Mellor highlighted that ‘I insisted he (Hartley) gets your side of the story before publishing’. This did not happen, as Hartley unprofessionally denied us the opportunity to be told the real topic of his story, or even be given an opportunity to see the full story before it was posted. A follow-up sms from us, to express the disappointment with Hartley’s unprofessional conduct, received Mellor’s reply: ‘I don’t have browsing internet access where I am – data very slow. Simon smsd to say he tried to get comment from you and were able to reply more than once but refused to‘, which is devoid of all truth! Clearly Hartley was desperate to get the story posted, and used Mellor’s absence to post it without any ‘journalistic’ integrity!
Our blog being highlighted as being controversial is not newsworthy, and we carry the badge from the SA Blog Awards, having been nominated as ‘Top 10 Most Controversial Blog’ in 2010 (the category has been discontinued since then), a category that was won by 2oceansvibe in that year, even though it wasn’t controversial, it never was a blog, and Mellor was a judge for the Awards too, showing how poor his ethics are, his sms claim of no longer being a blog being noted – it never was! In fact, his website is nothing more than a rehash of other writers’ work, with little original writing! He is not universally liked, seen by many to be arrogant and a ‘cheat’: here, here, here, here.
In one of Mellor’s sms messages he wrote that he has opened his own Twitter account (@SethRotherham): ‘I even had to get my own twitter handle as I can no longer use 2oceansvibe twitter for personal use‘
That brings us to Hartley, someone I have never met. Asking what his agenda was with the story, he replied that ‘I was following a journalistic lead’, and that we had not met previously. However via Twitter (great research medium which Hartley likes to use too for his so-called ‘research’) we discovered that he had been alerted to the story by Twitch Marthèlize Tredoux, a good friend of Hartley’s wife Lize, and a continual abusive Tweeter (as @konfytbekkie) about ourselves (she and I have never met, but she does love our Blog and Tweets, obsessively reading them and writing about them ad nauseam)! Unsurprisingly, Hartley’s defamatory call via Twitter for information for his ‘research’ was eagerly replied to by Skye Grove, PR and Communications Manager of Cape Town Tourism!
Asking Hartley why he did not send me a copy of his story before posting it, so that I could give him a detailed response, he arrogantly replied: “There is no onus on 2oceansvibe, or any other publication (sic) to send the subject of their investigations an entire article before it is published. On which journalistic handbook do you base this expectation? The onus on the publication is to strive for a balance of views, which we did in earnest by calling, texting and emailing you. Despite your ability to answer multiple emails, you did not comment on two short questions. Quite frankly, I did answer your questions as to how my questions for you were related to your dispute with SABA. I informed you that dozens of readers alerted us to the dispute you had/have with SABA, and while reading all of the available correspondence, an important lead appeared (you’ll see the screenshot in our post) – a lead that required its own investigation. So, as I answered at the time: the questions to you arose over the course of our reading through your dispute with SABA. I completely reject any assertions that I or 2oceansvibe Media acted dishonestly at any point in the investigation or publishing of the article, and should you be able to demonstrate any error in our reporting (we are confident there is none), we will gladly publish an amendment”.
We have highlighted the dishonesty of his misleading approach, and his unprofessional unwillingness to reveal what the story was really about. There was no balance sought, as claimed, as Hartley did not even verify which aspects of the SA Butler Academy blogpost were indeed honest and truthful (we did not terminate the services of Mrs Novacovic, for example, as he claimed, both our blogpost and that of the SA Butler Academy stating that, reflecting his poor research capability!). He spent three hours looking for information, yet gave us an unfairly short lead time to respond. He Tweeted libellously during his research, as he did on Tuesday too, proving how unprofessional he is: ‘Currently standing behind J Arthur Brown in the line for Cirque du Soleil. He’s looking terrifically rested for a criminal’.
‘Infamous’ 2oceansvibe (Hartley’s description) has a chequered past as far as honesty goes, and it makes one wonder how honest and balanced any writing on the website is! Clearly ethics and honesty are not part of the 2oceansvibe karma and vibe!
POSTSCRIPT 8/3: A blog reader asked about the tax liability of Mellor receiving the use of the MINI and the Vespa for free. We sent him a text message: ‘Hi Will, one of my readers has asked if you pay tax on the use of the MINI and the Vespa? What value is placed on each of these two vehicles?’ It was sent at 20h36 last night, and given no reply, again at 9h56 this morning. There has been no response from Mellor!
POSTSCRIPT 20/3: We have sent a lawyer’s letter to 2oceansvibe about their blogpost, which contained numerous untruths and is defamatory. Will Mellor has reacted in anger, and launched another attack. The two (unanswered!) sms messages (the second one was a repeat of the first because of non-reply!) we sent him about his own affairs (the value of and tax paid on his MINI and Vespa) he labels as ‘harrassment’, rich coming from someone who does not allow one to call, and who deals with communication with humans via sms or e-mail, on his terms. This is what we wrote: “Hi Will, one of my readers has asked if you pay tax on the use of the MINI and the Vespa? What value is placed on each of these two vehicles?”. So much for ‘harassment’!
POSTSCRIPT 20/3: 2oceansvibe has added a further article to their website, an angry reaction by Will Mellor to our request to the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) to take down the defamatory and dishonest 2oceansvibe article. Their response ridicules the Take Down notice they received, as well as the ISPA Code of Conduct, especially the clauses relating to “Lawful Conduct’.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
As of the beginning of this year, new regulations for conducting CCMA (Council for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration) Misconduct Arbitration hearings are in force, but have not been well publicised. The change to the regulations ruling CCMA Arbitration hearings is the first of a number of labour law changes planned for this year, including the Labour Relations Act, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, and the Employment Equity Act. The Misconduct Arbitration Guideline changes are designed to reduce the number of cases taken to the Labour Court on review.
About 80 % of CCMA cases relate to Misconduct, leading to claimed unfair dismissals against employers, wrote labour lawyer Tony Healy in the Weekend Argus. The amendments specify how misconduct arbitrations will now be conducted by CCMA commissioners. Writing in The Skillsportal, labour lawyer Ivan Israelstam stated that the new guidelines have been designed to ‘promote consistent decision making in arbitrations dealing with dismissals for misconduct’. He explained: “The LRA (Labour Relations Act) contains a large number of very big and crucial legal gaps. This fact, together with the fact that the concept of what is and is not ‘fair’ is heavily influenced by the views of each arbitrator, has historically rendered the labour law jungle an extremely dark, uncertain and dangerous place for employers to be. It is therefore high time that a document was put together to clear up these uncertainties. While the CCMA Guidelines do not entirely fulfil this function they do go some way towards clearing up some uncertainties as regards the law of fair misconduct dismissal”.
The new guidelines dictate that the CCMA Commissioners must interpret and apply the Labour Relations Act as well as related legislation which is binding on the CCMA, with decisions made at the highest level of court, including the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Appeal, Labour Appeal Court, High Court, and Labour Court. It is compulsory for arbitration awards to be ‘lawful, reasonable, and procedurally fair’, to tie in with our Constitution. Ultimately, the onus rests on the employer to prove the fairness of the dismissal.
The new CCMA Guidelines for Misconduct Arbitrations specifies that:
* arbitration must be impartial
* both parties may call witnesses to testify
* the arbitrator must inform the parties of eleven aspects relating to the procedure of the arbitration, including the rights of the parties
* legal representation may be requested by any of the parties, even during the arbitration procedure
* the employee should be asked what compensation is requested
* a written award with reasons must be sent to both parties within 14 days of the arbitration
* the arbitrator must evaluate the evidence based on the probabilities, and reliability of the witnesses
* the commissioner must evaluate the evidence against the Labour Relations Act and the company’s disciplinary procedures, and must check if there was a relevant rule, if it was known to the employee, if it was contravened, and if the rule was reasonable.
* The commissioner must evaluate whether the dismissal was appropriate, given the gravity of the contravention by the employee, and whether it was justified in being a ‘serious misconduct‘.
* in making an award, the commissioner must evaluate whether re-instatement of the employee is feasible (given that the employee would like to be re-instated) and ‘tolerable‘. If re-instatement is not accepted by the employee or deemed to be intolerable, a ‘just and equitable’ compensation must be determined by the commissioner, but may not exceed 12 months. The commissioner may levy an arbitration charge, and may seek additional compensation from the employer for the employee if it was deemed by him/her to be a ‘seriously unfair dismissal’.
Most CCMA cases are ‘ConArb’, a combination of Conciliation and Arbitration. Many employers (and employees) are unprepared for this, and do not understand that information provided in the Conciliation phase will not be incorporated in the Arbitration phase at all, therefore necessitating a repeat of all relevant facts at the Arbitration stage. It is important for employers to be well prepared for such CCMA hearings, in knowing their rights, and to be informed about the procedures, and to be in contact with their labour lawyers during the hearings, as an Arbitration can turn out to be a very costly exercise. In the past, employers have felt that commissioners have automatically sided with employees, therefore procedurally unfair!.
CCMA Guidelines: Misconduct Arbitrations, Notice 602 of 2011, Government Gazette, September 2011.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
What a stormy meeting it was at the Municipal Auditorium in Hermanus last night, when the Special General Meeting, which had been called by a number of members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau to table a motion of no confidence in its committee, commenced with the announcement that the whole committee had resigned.
The resignation in itself was unknown to some of the Committee members, and they only found about it at the meeting, ex-Committee member Fabio Lenzi bringing the house down when he stated that he didn’t know that he had resigned from the old Committee! It appears that many decisions about the running of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau were made by a handful of members of the Committee, and that such decisions were not minuted, and/or ratified by the whole Committee! We have written over the past eighteen months that things have not been well in the tourism industry in Hermanus, and how Committee members/Directors of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and the Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing (DMO) advantaged their businesses whilst serving on these two bodies.
Given the anticipated stormy nature of the Special General Meeting, the calling of which resulted from the unfair dismissal of Storm Kreusch as Manager of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau earlier this year, the Overstrand Municipality appointed advocate Professor Henning Viljoen as the independent chairman of the meeting. He had his hands full, in controlling the accusations of mismanagement from the side of the ex-Committee chairman Charl de Kock, assisted by Joan-Anne Harris, versus the representatives of the members who had called the meeting, being Mary Faure and Pam Nel. Ms Harris is a feisty lady, but lost severe face in her brave attempts to counter ex-Committee mismanagement allegations. In general, meeting attendees reported that the Lerm family and the ex-Committee did not come out of the meeting well. They must have realised that they would not win the No Confidence vote, and surprisingly an e-mail was sent by then-Chairperson Charl de Kock to Hermanus Tourism Bureau members an hour prior to the start of the meeting, with the Subject Line “The Hermanus Tourism Committee – Resignation Letter”, but no resignation was contained in the body of the e-mail. Instead it contained another pre-meeting attack against Ms Kreusch, and referred to “irregularities” alleged to have occurred during her management of the Bureau. It does request “the new HT committee members elected, if any, to proceed with further investigations and resolve current problems as discovered”. The issues are listed for the new Committee, and are similar to those contained in an e-mail sent by De Kock to members last Thursday, including the alleged intimidation of Bureau staff, cellphone usage and contracts, sale of cupboards, volunteering, Tourism Grading Council assessor’s alleged ‘misuse of power and possibly transgressing the code of conduct’, and internet abuse. It was mentioned in the meeting by De Kock that the Bureau had spent R40000 in legal fees to date on the unfair dismissal and CCMA hearing relating to Ms Kreusch.
Some of these issues were discussed in the meeting, and the focus by De Kock was largely on Ms Kreusch, in an attempt to save face. “It was obvious from the start that the committee were out of their depth as the mismanagement, misinformation, and non-information to members issues were laid bare”, wrote a Tourism Bureau member who attended the meeting. “As the meeting progressed, it was clear that the committee had not functioned as a unit, were totally dysfunctional, acting independently from each other, making unconstitutional personal decisions out of meetings on matters affecting the members and Hermanus Tourism”, she added.
One of the outcomes of the meeting, although not on the agenda for discussion at the Special General Meeting, was the members’ dissatisfaction with the DMO, the ‘parent body’ of all the Tourism Bureaus in the Overstrand municipal area, stretching from Rooi Els to Gansbaai. It emerged at the meeting that the icon of Hermanus whale watching, the Whale Crier, has been appointed by the DMO, when he previously reported to the Hermanus Tourism Bureau. This follows the DMO setting up a membership scheme in competition with the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, as well as an information and booking kiosk closer to the whale watching area. In a clever move prior to its resignation, the ex-Committee signed a Memorandum of Understanding that gives the DMO the right to appoint Hermanus Tourism Bureau staff, something the Gansbaai and Stanford Tourism Bureaus have refused to do!
At the meeting the new Hermanus Tourism Bureau Committee was elected: Mary Faure, Jenny Bowes-Meyer, Bill Harling, Ryno Rabie, Quintin Mitchell, Fabio Lenzi, Suzanne Clarke, Pam Nel, Jenna Raubenheimer, and Maurice Douree.
The way forward for the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and its new committee will remain stormy, as many of the ex-Hermanus Tourism Bureau members serve on the DMO, which means that further clashes and politics can be expected, when the DMO, headed by Clinton Lerm of Misty Waves Hotel and ex-Vice Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, can be expected to ‘punish’ the Hermanus Tourism Bureau for the loss of face it suffered last night!
POSTSCRIPT 19/7: Mary Faure has been elected Chairman and Fabio Lenzi Deputy Chairman of the new Hermanus Tourism Bureau Committee, which met this morning.
POSTCRIPT 20/7: The Hermanus Tourism Bureau has announced two additional co-opted Committee members, being Nikki Stanley and Neels Terblanche. As per the Constitution, the DMO Chairman and Deputy Chairman, Clinton Lerm and Dan Acker, respectively, will also serve on the Committee.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolioi: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
The powers that control tourism in Hermanus are holding on for dear life, and are using every possible means to hold on to their power, at the cost of disparaging their members. A huge fight for their political life takes place on Monday evening, when a Special General Meeting of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau is held at the request of its members, calling for a vote of no confidence in its current committee.
We have previously reported about the Hermanus Tourism Bureau reneging on its CCMA settlement agreement to pay their ex-Manager Storm Kreusch R10000 (Daniel Acker is the labour lawyer advisor on this matter, and a director of the Cape Whale Coast Destination Marketing Organisation), and this has been reported in the July issue of Noseweek too. We have reported about the conflict of interest in that the Deputy Chairman of the Tourism Bureau, Clinton Lerm, is also the Chairman of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, that his mother Maxie serves on both tourism bodies too, and that all tourism meetings are held at the Lerm’s Misty Waves Hotel. Following from the unfair dismissal of Ms Kreusch, a group of Hermanus Tourism Bureau members signed a petition, calling for a Special General Meeting, in accordance with the constitution of the Bureau. Given the potential stormy nature of the meeting, the Overstrand Municipality has appointed an independent advocate, Professor Henning Viljoen, to chair the meeting.
As the honour of the Lerm family is under threat, one can expect some nasty politics ahead and at the meeting. Earlier this week the Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, Charl de Kock, who appears a mere puppet of said family, wrote a denigrating e-mail to his members as a first salvo of attack, headed “Information we think you should know”. The three-page e-mail alleges:
* that some members were “lured to sign a ‘petition’ document whilst not having real facts”
* the agenda for the meeting on Monday is based on “one-sided defence and accusations”
* some volunteers that have helped in the Tourism Bureau offices have sent tourists to their own establishments, proudly adding that members of the management committee “decided not to take any bookings since late last year”
* Ms Kreusch’s staff did not collect outstanding monies due to the Bureau by its members, allowed non-paid members to display brochures and to receive bookings, was the cause of ‘wasteful expenditure’ ‘in respect of cellphone contracts and telephone costs, and used the internet for private purposes ‘remotely’ after hours. Ms Kreusch shared information from meetings with certain members (who were not on the committee).
* a member of the ‘petition committee’ intimidated the Bureau staff twice. “The person is known to us and we will act in due course as it is the policy of Hermanus Tourism to protect personnel from intimidation”!
* allegations that the current committee had withheld information from its members, as claimed by the ‘petition committee’, are denied
* the CCMA agreement, accepting responsibility on behalf of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau for unfair dismissal, was signed by him as “I had compassion (for Ms Kreusch) and was lured into signing a document after being requested by Storm Kreusch to please just allow her to continue her life in this town”!
The e-mail ending stoops to a unprofessional and unprecedented low, and should be reason enough for the current committee to be dismissed by its members: “It is IMPORTANT TO NOTE that if you support the petition, you in fact support each and every action of mismanagement highlighted above and you will therefore be co-responsible for the current turmoil in Hermanus Tourism. Support for the current committee means that you support the on-going efforts of myself as Chairperson and the current committee to make this one of the most effective tourism organisations in the country”! The first sentence is libelous, strong words coming from a body that includes the litigious Lerms, who are the essence of the latest Noseweek article, while the second sentence is ludicrous in its claim of perfection!
Mary Faure, the spokesperson of the ‘petition committee’, has responded, by writing that the Special General Meeting has not been called about Ms Kreusch, but is about “several unconstitutional matters”, including mismanagement, lack of integrity, lack of transparency, holding members in contempt (libelous comments have been made on social media), and lack of information, and ‘misinformation’ to members. One member has already lodged a complaint with the municipality, for the Hermanus Tourism Bureau e-mail implying that some of its members are responsible for ‘criminal activities’, and has asked the Chairman for a public apology.
A complaint about a disparaging comment from the Cape Whale Coast DMO, which was posted on our blog in response to our blogpost about Ms Keusch’s dismissal, was sent to DMO Chairman Clinton Lerm and remains unaddressed more than a month later! He has delegated the communication with ourselves to his DMO Deputy Chairman, Daniel Acker, who ends every e-mail in legalese, possibly intended to intimidate the recipient: “All the rights of the author, Cape Whale Coast DMO, and its directors are and remain reserved herein. Any response given herein is thus done without prejudice of / to these said rights”.
A further manifestation of the continued serving of self-interest amongst directors of the Cape Whale Coast DMO and Hermanus Tourism Bureau was the invitation of a select number of Hermanus tourism operators, in addition to the DMO committee, to participate in the presentation of their products and services to a 30-strong delegation of travel agents and tour operators visiting Hermanus, a visit sponsored by SA Tourism and SATSA. The communication was sent to select members by DMO director Joan-Anne Harris of Southern Stroll Marketing, mainly to her clients, it would appear. The participants were invited ‘to showcase their product/s to the agents and you will be able to network with them and build relationships over the 2 days’, advantaging a select number of members at the cost of the majority who were not invited! A Hermanus Times photograph of the event includes representatives of Schulphoek Guest House, Walker Bay Adventures, Cliff Lodge Guest House, African Horse Company, White Shark Projects, Misty Waves Hotel as some of the attendees from Hermanus. The caption reads: “SA Tourism brought 30 tour operators to the Whale Coast this week to give local accommodation establishments, restaurants, tour operators and organisations offering various adventure activities the opportunity to showcase their products”. It does not declare the elitist selection of participants. One wonders how Lerm could have thought that including this item in his recent newsletter to members would make the excluded members warm to him and his DMO and the Hermanus Tourism Bureau!
A rare Cape Whale Coast newsletter was sent by Cape Whale Coast DMO Chairman Clinton Lerm two weeks ago, clearly to present a good image in anticipation of the meeting on Monday, and announced that a Special General Meeting of the DMO will be called to address the dual membership of the DMO and of the Tourism Bureaus in the area, which meeting will be held almost a year after Lerm promised it. He quotes the ‘Municipal Financial Act’ as being the reason for the dual membership, but that is nonsense, as no other tourism bureau we belong to has such a dual membership system. Lerm writes: ‘a more inclusive membership structure stands to be adopted‘. Lerm highlighted the marketing activities of the DMO, clearly feeling the need to justify his organisation’s work, and included the launch of the Cape Whale Coast, the contentious Getaway article, coverage in Süedafrika magazine, attending Indaba (sharing a stand with Southern Stroll Marketing and other DMO directors, another contentious action), a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the DMO and Cape Town Tourism (as a member of Cape Town Tourism we have not seen this communicated to members!), and the visit by the travel agents/tour operators (making it sound as if only the DMO committee members were invited), hardly much to shout home about. Bravely Lerm has disclosed the hard-to-find-elsewhere names of the nineteen directors of the Cape Whale Coast, but seven of these are co-opted due to their positions as Overstrand Councillors or Tourism Bureau Managers. Ms Harris is widely rumoured to be the first incumbent of the position of Manager of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, but that will be another story for another day!
POSTSCRIPT 16/7: The Hermanus Times of 14 July says that the events leading up to the meeting on Monday is “the worst tourism crisis ever for the tourism industry in the region, Hermanus Tourism (HT) has been thrown into turmoil”! It adds that tension has been brewing for some time ‘within the organisation’.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
I could not believe what I was told about the storm which is brewing in Hermanus tourism circles about the unfair dismissal of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau Manager Storm Kreusch about two months ago, and how this has become a political issue, given the municipal elections on 18 May.
The first I had heard was an e-mail sent to members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, stating that one should not believe everything one had heard about the dismissal, and that more information would be supplied. In heavy legalese its Chairman Charl de Kock wrote the following under his first name only: “We have become aware that certain unfounded & unsubstantiated rumours and slanderous information may have been initiated & circulated, as if they were facts, by members and non-members alike; following the Conciliation meeting with Ms G D (“Storm”) Kreusch, on 05 May 2011. Kindly be advised that certain matters & issues, arising from the dismissal of Ms Kreusch, remain unfinalised, and that we shall issue an official statement in this regards (sic) as soon as the matter has, in fact, been finalized. We therefore call on Members of Hermanus Tourism to be patient, in the meantime, until the real and accurate facts have, in fact, been published. Lastly, we place on record that the contents of certain malicious and unfounded correspondences have been noted, and that we reserve the right to respond thereto / comment in full thereon, at a later stage, and in the proper forum. Note that all the rights of the Author hereof, Hermanus Tourism Bureau and any of its Directors are, and remain, fully reserved herein. Any response given in the content of this correspondence shall therefore be deemed to have been given without prejudice of any of the said rights”.
I was interested in the story from one perspective, and that is that the Lerm family appears to be in the midst of this controversy. I have written about them before on this blog, and we face a R1,3 million defamation claim from them as a result! It is no surprise that Hermanus will soon be renamed Lermanus, it is said as a joke, if Maxie Lerm (second left, schmoozing the previous mayor Theo Beyleveldt) wins the election on behalf of the Democratic Alliance in Ward 3 in the Overstrand municipality. Her son Clinton (second from right) already is Chairman of the Destination Marketing Organisation and Vice Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, and both mother and son serve on the Executive Committees of both these bodies, mother Maxie Lerm handles the Public Relations portfolio for the Destination Marketing organisation.
Someone who thinks that Maxie Lerm won’t win is John Williams, the Chairman of Cope, who is based in Stanford, in ward 11 of the Overstrand. He has observed what the Lerm family is doing to tourism, and how the family, which owns the Misty Waves Hotel, has used its influence and positions to benefit its own business, directly and indirectly. Father Henri Lerm (right) and his son Clinton have created a new Hermanus Sakekamer/Chamber of Commerce. The Hermanus Tourism Bureau recently became a member of the Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut Employers’ Organisation, making some Hermanus tourism players suspect that the Lerms want to amalgamate the business and tourism interests in the town, as they have attempted before, so that this time the amalgamated body will fall under their power and control. Mother Maxie’s success in the municipal election would be the crowning glory to this scenario, controlling the tourism interests of the Overstrand Municipality, the Destination Marketing Organisation, and of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau! Williams does not mince his words about his political opponent, and he says Mother Maxie is allegedly ‘loathed and despised’ in the region. Williams has been involved in tourism, and wants to head up the Overstrand municipal tourism portfolio.
The outcome of a conciliatory meeting, called by the Commissioner of the CCMA, was settlement in favour of the Manager of the Tourism Bureau, whereby the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, under the chairmanship of Charl de Kock and mandated by his committee, admitted to a faulty procedure and unfair action in the dismissal process, and agreed to pay her a monetary settlement in full and final settlement of her case of appeal. Clinton Lerm allegedly stated in a meeting held at the Tourism Bureau that he, as Vice Chairman, would resign should they have been found to not have followed the correct procedure with her dismissal, and he believed that the rest of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau committee should follow suit, but this resignation has not yet been forthcoming.
The members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau are furious about the suspension of their manager, who was dedicated to tourism for over five years. A number of the members of the management committee of the Bureau have resigned in the past few months, given the treatment of the Manager by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman.
Further anger stems from a proposed Memorandum of Agreement which the Destination Marketing Organisation is requesting the tourism bureaus in the Overstrand municipal area to sign. Disputed is the inclusion of a proposed clause accepting that the Destination Marketing Organisation will hire and fire staff of all the Tourism Bureaus under the Overstrand municipal control. Also, a promise in September last year by the Destination Marketing Organisation, after a previous furore about the organisation, that members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and those of the Cape Whale Coast would automatically become members of the Destination Marketing Organisation without paying extra membership fees, has not yet been honoured. It appears that in the past seven months the Destination Marketing Organisation has not yet called a General Meeting to obtain member approval for this constitutional change regarding membership.
Concentration of power, by a family having a strong private and commercial interest in tourism, is dangerous for any town, and should be stopped in Hermanus at all costs. What we said almost 18 months ago, more and more Hermanus tourism players are now seeing, and they appear to have reached the end of their tolerance of this blatant abuse of power.
POSTSCRIPT 11/5: I have been informed that there was similar politicking in Bloemfontein, where the Lerms previously lived, and Maxie Lerm stood for the ANC, amongst others. They appeared to change their political allegiance regularly.
POSTSCRIPT 11/5: It has been discovered that a number of Directors of the Destination Marketing Organisation had their personal businesses represented on the Cape Whale Coast stand at Indaba over the past weekend, including Southern Stroll Marketing and Shark Diving Unlimited. It is alleged that members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau and other tourism bureaux in the Overstrand Were not offered an opportunity to participate in this stand.
POSTSCRIPT 15/5: The following serves as further input to the above debate, written by John Williams on his blog “Truth about Hermanus“:
“The ‘Wonders that never cease’ on the Cape Whale Route are the damaging shenanigans that continue to rock the foundations of the organisation mandated to market this outstanding destination (Hermanus and the Overstrand coastal region) commonly known as the Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO) and the Hermanus Tourism Bureau (HTB).
Stormy seas ahead for the Lerm’s!
’The DMO has, in my opinion, made a right mess of things for the tourism industry. They have wasted our money and they have, as far as I can see, only one ambition – and that is to turn Hermanus into the glitziest, cheapest, nastiest destination in the Cape’. ..a comment made recently by a leading tourism personality in Hermanus.
If you didn’t know, Storm Kreusch, manager of Hermanus Tourism Bureau was unfairly suspended and was then subsequently “dismissed” after she has resigned! by the Hermanus Tourism Bureau of which Clinton Lerm (DMO chairman) is vice Chairman (Clinton, having stepped down to position of vice chair of HTB, earlier this year when it became obvious that a conflict of interest was present between his governance of both bodies) Ms Kreusch went to the CCMA and apparently after a conciliation meeting came out as the victor and was awarded compensation!
A very well done Storm! The whole town supports you (except the Lerm family) but now here is the nub. At a volunteer’s meeting at the HTB,Clinton had said that he would resign from the HTB Committee and believes that the rest of the Committee should also resign – (his mother serves on that committee as well as the DMO) should it be proven that the incorrect procedure was followed regarding Storm’s suspension. Rumour has it that Maxie Lerm has already or will now resign due, not to this statement by her son, but due to her DA candidature. Will it be from both HTB and DMO committees we wonder.
So, indeed, we are now waiting for the re-election of the HTB and the DMO committee’s, at a special meeting which will need to be called as soon as possible!
Background to the formation of the DMO in 2007/8. This marketing body was put in place to, among other duties (and not necessarily in order) to undertake as follows:
1. Advertise the Cape Whale Coast generically in whatever media possible;
2. Administer the grant from the Overstrand Municipality (OM) and any funds generated to the local Whale Coast Tourism Bureau’s via the management committee of each bureau, thereby maintaining (not managing) effective tourism bureaus;
3. Be nominated and be represented on the management committees of the various Bureau’s.
N.B. All businesses who paid rates and taxes/previous business levy/ were eligible to be members of the DMO (2007/8 constitution
Background to the DMO the HTB feud over membership and Info Kiosk
The Hermanus Tourism Bureau had been lobbying for at least 5 years to have a satellite information kiosk on the seafront. This kiosk would also act as a shelter for the Whale crier during the rainy months. The Kiosk was granted to HTB by Mayor Beyleveldt in Sept 2009 at the AGM. In Dec 2009 the DMO hi jacked the kiosk from HTB, for DMO use and membership, thus generating income for the DMO. At this stage Clinton Lerm and his mother Maxie Lerm were serving on both committees and Clinton was Chairman of both. There was an outcry by many members regarding the loss of the kiosk. Most members showed a lethargy regarding the kiosk as they felt it was a battle HTB would never win against the DMO. (little did they realize the tide inevitably changes)
Clinton Lerm seemingly resigned as Chairman of HTB, when it was evident that there was a conflict of interest being chairman of both committees and that DMO had used their powers to “take” the kiosk. A very heated HTB AGM in Sept 2010 ensued and it was agreed that DMO was to return the Kiosk to HTB as soon as possible.
A formal announcement was then made in the Hermanus Times, by means of a letter from DMO, written by Lerm, that the DMO was to hand over the Kiosk, back to HTB in due course.
But what then followed was an extended idiotic squabble – all in very poor taste (astoundingly small minded and uncharitable behaviour by the DMO) when they continued to trade the Kiosk through the peak season and according to Lerm the criteria for membership of DMO had changed, constitutionally.
It became evident to the whole Whale Coast that the kiosk was only going to serve a “select few” – The DMO had pronounced that in order to get bookings via the Kiosk, HTB members now had to join and pay for membership to the DMO. In a nutshell – two memberships to partake in two “official” municipally funded Information Offices. One office trading on the doorstep of the other.
Progress to resolve conflict between DMO and HTB
It must now be understood that Clinton Lerm had promised in September 2010 in the same article in the HermanusTimes to take the issue of membership of the DMO to his committee and get the membership criteria changed to include all TB members of the Whale Coast. Apparently council had approved this change. It is now mid May 2011 and the membership issue has not yet been put in place. He once again made mention earlier this year that a special general meeting was to be called possibly in April to put the matter right and get approval from his small database of DMO members to change the constitution before taking on the Tourism Bureau members of the Whale Coast. Nothing has been affected to date!
The Kiosk was returned to the HTB during March/April and the HTB has been crisis managed by the committee ever since Ms Kreusch’s resignation, much to the member’s disgust.
There’s talk the Lerm clan is under siege and will finally realise that ‘vested interest’ actually disqualifies them from holding multiple posts in these tourism and marketing organisations.TheIr track record proves this to be the case (see below for some ‘hand to hand’ combat with the accommodation industry.”
POSTSCRIPT 18/5: Today the Hermanus Tourism Bureau Chairman Charl de Kock has sent an e-mail regarding the ‘Storm”-saga, and has stated that they have received a written apology – Joan-Anne Harris has demanded one from ourselves (see Comments to this blogpost), but we have not sent one. The final laugh is that Charl encourages members of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau to vote today – we all know that Maxie Lerm is the DA candidate for Ward 3 in the Overstrand, and her connection to the tourism bodies in Hermanus is documented above! The e-mail is not correct in stating that the CCMA process has not been concluded. The Hermanus Tourism Bureau representatives signed a document that admits that their dismissal process was ‘fatally flawed’ and that the dismissal procedure was ‘unfair’. They have reneged on the payment of the R 10000 settlement to Storm Kreusch by the agreed deadline of 12 May 2011.
“Dear Hermanus Tourism Members
We can understand the concerns expressed by members as to what has been happening lately with regards to Storm.
A word of thanks to everyone who has indicated that they trust the HT Committee to handle the process correctly and fairly – and allow it to run its course. We would appreciate it if NO ONE will draw conclusions or spread unfounded rumours as it is (sic) only to the detriment of our town.
Please note that the CCMA case re the Hermanus Tourism Manager is still in process!
As soon as the verdict is confirmed and the case is concluded we will inform all our HT members of the outcome.
The HT Committee has tried to halt the unfounded rumours; however the ongoing personal slander and unsubstantiated accusations continue and have even resulted in a written apology.
Please let us all work together towards a better future for the hospitality industry of this town and assist the committee and personnel in delivering the service excellence that they have aiming for.
The Hermanus Tourism personnel are currently visiting accommodation establishments to get to know your property and everything that you have to offer your guests. This is the first step in the Product Knowledge training that we are implementing to ensure they can market our beautiful area and superb products / companies.
Yours in tourism:
Charl de Kock and the Hermanus Tourism Committee
POSTSCRIPT 23/5:I have received a copy of the CCMA Settlement Agreement signed between Storm Kreusch and the Hermanus Tourism Bureau representative Charl de Kock, in which R10000 was due to have been paid into Ms Kreusch’s bank account by 12 May. In an unusual addition, but probably requested by Ms Kreusch’s attorney, the following was added under “Other”: “The employer admits that the process resulting in the dismissal of the employee was fatally flawed and that her dismissal was consequently procedurally unfair. This agreement settles all or any dispute that had or may arise from the employment relationship between the parties”.
POSTSCRIPT 30/5: The Hermanus Tourism members were excited to see the new June issue of Getaway, which has a nine-page spread on its village. This quickly changed to shock when they saw that the editorial content, guided by the Cape Whale Coast DMO, contained the following errors:
* The Whale Season is stated as being from May to September, when it fact it stretches until the beginning of December
* The article also recommends that visitors to the Cape Whale Coast route that hate crowds should rather stay away – the only crowded period is during the Hermanus Whale Festival, falling around the 24 September public holiday. Many other options are offered in the other villages along the Cape Whale Coast route, but these are not mentioned.
* The article says that visitors to the Cape Whale Coast Route should expect to pay more during the whale watching period – this is utter nonsense, as rates are set by season and not be whale activity. Most guest houses and restaurants have good winter offers until August, then have a spring rate in September, and charge summer rates from October. Due to supply and demand, the Whale Festival weekend period may have higher rates for the 3 – 4 day duration.
* Only 4- and 5-star accommodation was allowed to participate in a promotion in July, according to the rules of the Marketing Project co-ordinator of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, Joan-Anne Harris. Tourism Bureau members were given very short notice to participate in the advertising.
* The article does not contain a pay-off line for Hermanus or the Cape Whale Coast (“Best land-based whale watching in the world”). The editorial does not refer to the Whale Crier, the unique icon for Hermanus. No Cape Whale Coast branding is visible.
* The article contains a number of typing errors relating to e-mail and website addresses, and it would appear that no DMO representative (Joan-Anne Harris of Southern Stroll Marketing is the DMO Marketing co-ordinator) proofread the article.
Getaway has been contacted by some members, and it appears that no proofreading of the article was done by the DMO nor by the magazine (one wonders who supplied the information to journalist Fatima Jakoet, for it to contain so many errors)! Getaway has promised a correction in its August issue.
POSTSCRIPT 5/6: The CCMA Settlement Agreement was ‘cancelled’ by Dan Acker, of Holwill Bosman Acker & Associates, writing on behalf of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, and a Director of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, on 6 May: “our client shall, with immediate effect, withdraw completely from the said ‘settlement agreement’ and shall hereafter deem said agreement to be null and void”,supposedly justifying why they did not pay Ms Kreusch the settlement of R10000 by the agreed date of 12 May. This bullying ‘cancellation’ is motivated by a number of points, including that Ms Kreusch ‘breached the clearly expressed confidentiality, purpose and spirit of the said Conciliation discussions and subsequent agreement’ . We have seen the CCMA Settlement Agreement, and it does not contain any confidentiality clause by which the Hermanus Tourism Bureau can give itself the power to cancel the Settlement Agreement!
POSTSCRIPT 8/6: Charl de Kock, Chairman of the Hermanus Tourism Bureau, wrote a rather strange letter to members of a “Petition Group”, who had signed a petition calling for a Special General Meeting, yesterday afternoon, just before this Group was due to meet. He reinforces that he acted correctly in respect of Ms Kreusch’s disciplinary hearing, subsequent termination, and CCMA hearing, and blatantly accuses her of deceit: “It is now common knowledge that I was ‘conned’ and that Storm, her lawyer end (sic)Storm’s possible financial backers had no intention of keeping this document (the CCMA Settlement Agreement) confidential. I really believed I was signing an honourable agreement and that Storm wanted ‘to get on with her life’! He does invite all members of the Group to view the documents, and does agree that the Mayor should ‘call for an impartial meeting where all the facts can be addressed and laid bare for all to see’.
POSTSCRIPT 8/6:A Top Billing feature on Hermanus appears to include more DMO Director properties. Once we have seen the detail, we will add it.
POSTSCRIPT 9/6: At a DA Ward 3 Councillor’s meeting held without announcement to the Ward constituency last night, headed by new DA councillor Maxie Lerm, her husband Henri Lerm and DMO Board member Dan Acker were elected onto the Ward committee, the two ‘gentlemen’ nominating each other!
POSTSCRIPT 10/6: A highly defamatory Comment was sent by the Cape Whale Coast DMO to this blog, in reaction to this blogpost, as well as to our radio interview on Whale Coast FM earlier today. Clinton Lerm, the Chairman of the Cape Whale Coast DMO, was invited to be interviewed, but refused to participate if he was on the same program as ourselves, based on legal advice. Hermanus Tourism Bureau Chairman Charl de Kock did participate. Joan-Anne Harris, a Director of the DMO, tried a number of times to get the topic of the radio programme stopped earlier this week. We will not yet publish the defamatory comment, and will use it for possible legal action.
POSTSCRIPT 16/6: We believe that it is in the interest of transparency that the Cape Whale Coast Comment sent to this blog be published. We have been challenged to do so by Joan-Anne Harris’ partner David Snoek :
I think you will all find that HTB is running smoothly, receiving positive feedback from Tourists, and NOT FIGHTING AMONGST EACH OTHER. Chris, however, feels the need to fight with everyone she comes into contact with! Why is this? Is she unhappy? – Or does she fancy herself as a bit of a ‘celebrity’ with all the comments on her blogs? I cannot see that she is any kind of ambassadeur (sic) for Hermanus, what with the amount of bad publicity she attracts. I say out with her! She’s a stirrer, a trouble-maker and horrible person!
POSTSCRIPT 30 June: Noseweek was alerted to this blogpost, and its July issue contains an excellent article about the Lerm family, and its litigious approach to dealing with criticism!
POSTSCRIPT 10/8: We received the following apology from Fabio Lenci, Vice-Chairman of the new Hermanus Tourism Bureau committee, about the insulting blogpost which came from the now-defunct DMO : “The following is written on behalf of Hermanus Tourism of which we have all agreed and I have been mandated as vice chairperson by the new committee to send you a letter of apology. Please note that we have exhausted every avenue and to confirm that we cannot trace the individual who used the terminal as it could have been anyone. It is with regret that I have to write you this letter of apology on behalf of the previous dispensation and also the new dispensation would like to extend their sincere apologies for the undesirable comments made on your blog dated May 2011. We wish to inform you that we have begun with various encouraging motions in the right direction to get HTB and all its members on track in a positive frame of mind and rest assured that we have the backing of the whole of Hermanus. We look forward to a prosperous future with all the positive support while achieving our goals one at a time for the good of Hermanus & all its citizens”.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
A recent letter to the Cape Argus by reader Merle Kaplan about rising prises and decreasing levels of service in Cape Town over the Festive season was food for thought. Our response to her letter, sent to the Cape Argus, was as follows:
“While not a restaurant owner, but a frequent restaurant user, I cannot agree with Ms Kaplan about price increases. I want to commend our restaurants for holding their prices in these difficult times – they probably have no choice anyway. I must immediately exclude the mad prices charged for New Year’s Eve dinners and entertainment, with up to R 2 000 per head charged for 3 or 4 courses, 2 free glasses of bubbly, and some entertainment.
A sensitive point raised is that of staff. If Ms Kaplan had any idea about how difficult it is to run a hospitality business, then she would be more sympathetic to the staffing problems our industry experiences. Realities are no-shows of staff – something else comes up or they want to go out with their friends, who are all on holiday. Staff move from one job to another on the basis of a few Rands, without giving the required notice period, as per their contracts and the Department of Labour’s Sectoral Determination for the Hospitality Industry. Students are a fantastic source of help, but they need to be trained. Students do not appear to be as “hungry” as they used to be, and they too would prefer to spend the Christmas and New Year’s days with their family and friends and forego the income. Unfortunately not arriving at work is not a “dismissible offence”, as Ms Kaplan claims – one can issue 3 letters of warning and then hold a disciplinary hearing before one can even contemplate firing an employee. Then the restaurant owner is still guaranteed to be called to the CCMA, or the Department of Labour.
But hardest of all, is the extreme short-term nature of customers’ decision-making. Last minute bookings, or arrivals without a booking, must be a restaurateurs’ worst nightmare, as they cannot predict how many customers they will have each day – this affects planning for stocks and staffing. Restaurants experience good and bad days, and there is no pattern to predict when they will be busy and when not.
I also think that after a quiet year due to the credit crunch, during which everything went at a slower pace, it is hard for restaurants and their staff to pick up the pace and deal with full restaurants again. All our businesses have become leaner, due to the credit crunch. Cape Town’s hospitality industry must get out of the credit crunch mode, and must gear up to face the busiest June and July ever during the World Cup.”
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com