The new words on serious diners lips are ‘Gåte’ and ‘Quoin Rock’, both not having been heard of by most, but already associated with superlative dining, on a wine estate tucked away outside Stellenbosch where no expense had been spared to create eating and drinking experiences to take one’s breath away! This is what we experienced when invited to eat at Chef Rikku O’Donnchü’s Gåte restaurant on Friday evening. I was still pinching myself over the weekend as to whether this was real, or just a dream. I invited my friend Stuart Bailey to share this experience with me. Continue reading →
The Sweet Service Award goes to the Palms Market, and its co-ordinator Isabella Niehaus, for her generous Valentine’s Day gift of a box of figs, olive breads, charcuterie, and cheese, all produce from her market traders.
* Eclectic Brands is set to list on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange later this month, a restaurant group consisting of an eclectic collection of restaurants, a deli, and a catering company: Burger Perfect, ChickinTyme, Giovanni’s Deliworld, Green Catering, Slug & Lettuce, and more.
* By the end of June, the City of Cape Town will be offering 61 free wifi hotspots in its public buildings, including the existing services in the Civic Centre, Hillstar, Plumstead, and Harare Library in Khayelitsha. A total of 69 exterior wifi spots are also available, including in Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain.
The Sweet Service Award goes to the Stellenbosch Municipality, and its new Free Wifi service in Franschhoek. While it is not sure how far its reach is, it was a pleasant surprise in getting something back from the municipality. One suspects that the core router is in the municipal offices next to the Town Hall.
The Sweet Service Award goes to the Department of Home Affairs in Barrack Street, which I had to deal with to replace my ID book after my handbag was stolen at the Nap coffee shop in the Cape Quarter in January. I had not been in the building for many years, and was impressed that they supply SARS-style metal seating, which I did not recall, one having to stand in the past. I was fortunate to have decided to go in the afternoon, so that I only had to wait for 90 minutes to have my queue number called. Luckily one has an ID book for a lifetime, and therefore one seldom has to enter the Department’s building a second time! I was impressed with the efficiency of the staff behind the counters, and then noticed how much faster they worked, the closer it got to closing time at 16h00, hearing them mutter that the queue number issuer was still letting in people close to their closing time. I was told that the ID book would take about 8 weeks to arrive, and was more than delighted when I received the sms to collect it after only 3 weeks. I only arrived at 15h00 on a Friday afternoon, and it took only 20 minutes waiting time to collect the ID book! Perhaps this efficiency had to do with the registration for the upcoming General Elections! Continue reading →
A hard-hitting Open Letter to Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille and Councillor Brett Herron was published in the Letters page of the Cape Times last week, and echoes many of our observations about the failure of the MyCiTi Bus service on the city centre and Camps Bay routes. The newspaper also published a defensive response from Councillor Brett Herron, Mayoral Committee member for Transport and ultimately responsible for the city’s public transport service.
Emiritus Professor of Forensics at UCT Deon Knobel, a respected pathologist and lecturer, has observed, as have we (we have Tweeted this regularly) that the MyCiTi Buses travelling in Camps Bay and along Kloof Street are still close to empty three months after the inception of the routes. Our blogpost after a trial trip from Camps Bay to the Silo section (previously called the Clocktower) of the V&A Waterfront highlighted that the trip took too long (90 minutes one way), and that commuters who wanted to get onto the bus did not have a MyCiTi Bus card with which to pay for their trip. Extensive queues are still seen in Camps Bay, waiting for taxis, despite the MyCiTi Bus charging next to nothing!
Professor Knobel’s letter documented his observations over the last month in Gardens, Kloof Street, Kloofnek Road, and Camps Bay that not one of the MyCiTi Buses had ‘more than five or six passengers in the bus, and not infrequently no more than three or four. One bus even carried the amazing figure of one passenger’. In addition, he had observe eight ‘virtually empty‘ buses on the N2 highway, returning to the city from the airport. Given the poor occupancy of the MyCiTi Buses, Professor Knobel asked De Lille and Herron the following questions: Continue reading →
Episode 2 of MasterChef SA was boring, long and drawn out, a continuation of Tuesday’s Hot Auditions held in Johannesburg. The episode was characterised by tears, two references to parents passing away, and lots of happy hugging of the judges by the lucky winners of the white aprons, entitling them to attend Bootcamp. The contestants were less characterful and impressive than those of Tuesday evening.
The episode was inconsistent, showing some contestants winning the apron, without their names being revealed. and almost no motivation provided as to why the judges chose them. It is a shame too that some of the contestants’ friends and colleagues (e.g. of Shannon Smuts) Tweeted about her performance all day, making the outcome pretty certain, this taking away some of the surprise. Generally it was a long drawn out episode, with the repetition of food preparation in 45 minutes, plating in 5 minutes, and then seeing the judges stuffing themselves, almost having a bun fight over a custard! The mention of a parent having passed away by two contestants, one mentioning it twice to the camera, was seen by Tweeters to be overdone, and begging for a sympathy vote!
Based on the same principle of highlighting those contestants which received the most screen time last night, we predict that the following will go through to Nederburg, if they survive Bootcamp next week:
1. Tiron Eloff works at a video store, which may be sold due to the tough times, which will allow him to become a professional chef. He said that he had paid so much attention to other people in his life, and that it was time to focus on himself now. He prepared a rare grilled hanger steak, which Chef Pete was sceptical about, it being a difficult cut of meat to do well, and which Tiron admitted to only having prepared once before, and having overcooked it then! His jus was made with sugar, port, and Cabernet Sauvignon. He looked extremely nervous whilst the judges sampled his food. Chef Pete reiterated that it was a challenging piece of meat, and that it may not have been a good idea to try to make it on such an important occasion, but that it had turned out perfectly. He was supported by Chef Andrew, who praised the steak and its perfect seasoning. Twitter: @TironEloff
2. Mary was a Latin American dancer and now is a stay-at-home mom, so the judges were playing with words when they provided the feedback, saying she needed to put her best foot forward and learn the steps of cooking, Chef Pete saying he wanted to see her dance some more. Chef Benny loved her dish of gnocchi, prawns, chorizo, and cherry tomatoes, while Chef Pete said that the individual pieces were too large.
3. Bubbly twenty year old Linda (called Monkey). with a hint of pink in her hair, went ape when she was selected, making a three course meal, including a Thai Trio, which Chef Andrew rejected on the basis of its overpowering sauce and dry noodles. However, Chef Pete liked the dish, but warned her that she should have focused on one dish only. Chef Benny also gave her a ‘Yes’, and she hugged the judges, jumping for joy.
4. Tumi works for SARS, and said that he has a passion for cooking, which he does at home, spoiling his wife. He prepared a Seafood Fettucini, praised by all three judges for being perfect home-made pasta. Chef Pete was disappointed that it wasn’t lunchtime yet, as he could have finished the whole dish!
5. Gershwin expressed his love for cooking and prepared a medium rare beef fillet with watercress. Chef Benny rejected his dish, for having no salt and pepper, fundamental seasoning he said, but he did praise the ‘4 star restaurant plating’ of his dish. But Chefs Pete and Andrew allowed him to go through, as he had executed a safe and classic dish well.
6. Karen Els is a stay at home mom from KwaZulu-Natal, and she was ecstatic when she received her apron, loving her cooking more than her husband and children, she admitted in her joy. She said it is her time to shine, and described the making and presentation of food as an ‘art form’. She prepared a waterblommetjie-stuffed ostrich dish, served with cous cous. Chefs Benny and Andrew gave her dish the go-ahead, which resulted in a flood of tears. Twitter: @kelsfoodie
7. Alistair works at Nedbank (as does Season 1 winner Deena Naidoo) and is a third year student in Musicology he said. He mentioned twice that his mother had just passed away, and cried as he entered the judging arena, being very emotional. His mother had always urged him to do the best, and to win. He did say that he was happy to be at the Hot Audition. He prepared an Asian-style Seared Tuna, Chef Pete praising its flavours having been drawn out well, and Chef Benny gave him a thumbs-up too.
8. Khumo Twala made a Sticky Toffee pudding, with a custard which the three judges were fighting over to finish. No further information was provided about her, but she received her apron for Bootcamp. Twitter: @Simply_khumski
9. Pashi from Durban is a marketer, and also lost his father recently, and now supports his family. He wants to change career direction and cook full-time, realising that he can earn money from it. His Crayfish and Mussels dish, made with a Thai massaman curry sauce, was well received for its delicate touch and lovely flavours, earning him an apron. Twitter: @Pashi187
10. Rowan from Durban said he has been cooking since the age of 12, and made a Moroccan chicken fillet. Chef Pete did not like it at all, saying it was as dry as the desert in Morocco. Chefs Benny and Andrew said the chicken was a little dry, but that the sauce picked up the dish, giving him an apron.
11. Shannon Smuts is a graphic designer at Good Housekeeping magazine in Cape Town, and when asked what she wants from the programme, she confidently answered that she wants her own cooking TV show and a cook book! She has a huge Twitter fan club already! She has lived in Thailand, and made Thai curry parcels with a self-made curry paste. Chef Pete did not like the dish for having too much pastry, but the other two judges liked the crispness of the pastry and the taste of the paste. She jumped for joy too, and hugged all three the judges! Twitter: @Shananigems
There seemed to be far more non-sponsor advertisements last night compared to Tuesday evening, and they dominated the sponsor presence: Ariel (a surprise), Spur, FNB, Scooters, Stanlib, Cell C, Spar, ESKOM, and Samsung.
For an overview of what is lying ahead for Season 2 read here. For behind the scenes information on the filming of Season 2 in January read here. We want to clarify that M-Net has a strict procedure for interviewing contestants, all writers having to obtain permission from their PR Manager Ingrid Engelbrecht upfront. The condition is that all writers have to submit their story to Ms Engelbrecht for approval and sometimes minimal editing before being allowed to publish it. We have agreed to follow this rule, so that we can have the opportunity to write stories about the contestants during the course of season 2. This appears to be an unusual procedure relative to other food reality TV shows, especially as we signed a confidentiality agreement before attending the Media Day. This rule only applies to contestant interviews, and in no way affects writing a summary of each episode such as this one.
Next week’s episodes will focus on the Bootcamp, and are likely to be far more exciting that the first two episodes. They will also be an opportunity to get to know some of the Finalists better, and to see how they cope under pressure. If this week is anything to go by, we are in for a lot more tears (especially from the men it would appear!) in the next 12 weeks to come!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
On the day that Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan presented South Africa’s mid-term budget in Parliament, and announced that SARS revenue collected is R5 billion less, and is unlikely to grow next year, Minister Alan Winde closed the Wesgro AGM with refreshing honesty, and said that the Finance Minister’s speech meant that provinces would receive the same allocation as the current financial year, meaning a lower buying power next year due to cost increases. He also said that currently South Africa is lacking leadership, and is not projecting the right image to the outside world, given the strike of the SA Transport and Allied Worker’s Union, the Marikana massacre, and the capsizing of the Miroshga off Hout Bay.
Minister Winde’s sombre closure of the AGM reflecting the tough trading conditions which the Western Cape businesses can expect for the next two years, and which have already affected Wesgro’s performance in not meeting its top targets of Investment. The Trade, Investment and (new) Tourism promotion body celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, and probably presented negative figures for the first time in many years. It has an interesting method of setting targets, at a high and a low band. In most measurements presented, Wesgro exceeded the ‘low road’, but did not meet the ‘high road’ budgets in its Investment and Trade Promotion divisions. Wesgro Chairman Benjamin Kodisang started off the proceedings by also adding his negative view of the world, expressing that he is ‘a concerned man, who has never found the world in the situation it is in now, economically, socially, and politically’. He challenged business persons in the Cape to ‘stand up, and be counted’, and to show leadership, as contained in Wesgro’s Vision of leading ‘the creation and promotion of a compelling global destination for investment, trade and destination marketing for the benefit of all people in the Western Cape’. Good news is that the Western Cape economic growth has outshone that of the national economy for the eleventh year running, with a growth rate of 3,1 % currently, driven largely by a 7% growth in exports, mainly of fruit. Over a third of exports go to Asia, and one-quarter to Europe (of which one-fifth is wine). R1,24 billion in Investment was attracted to the province in the past year, it was reported. More than 1000 jobs were created in the same period. The dominant export markets for the Western Cape remain the UK, France and Germany, but the West Africa Trade Corridor is gaining importance, in particular Nigeria, Angola, Cameroon, and Côte d’Ivoire. Angola has taken over from Mozambique as the province’s largest trade partner in Africa, said Nils Flaatten, Wesgro CEO. Brazil, India and China, all BRICS countries, are important for partnerships to promote the economy of the Western Cape. The United Nations Procurement Programme, incorporating our province as one of only three developing areas, is a bonus for the Western Cape.
In April Wesgro incorporated Cape Town Routes Unlimited, which no longer operates by that name, but which still has a Board in place until the Western Cape Tourism Act of 2004 has been repealed, likely to be in April 2013. The Wesgro Act is being amended too, to allow the organisation to adopt the role of tourism promotion too. Deon Cloete, Chairman of the Cape Town Routes Unlimited Board, also painted a picture of a tough economy and the effect of the incorporation of the organisation into Wesgro, the contribution of conferences to the Western Cape economy having been R254 million instead of the projected R360 million, even though the number of conferences grew. The 1,4 million tourist arrivals means an 8% decline, while spend by foreign tourists had declined by 16% to R18 billion, he said. The province sold 26% of the national bednights, and the average spend per day on a trip was R1420. Cloete warned of a ‘tough year’ ahead, despite the country’s most popular tourism destination, the V&A Waterfront, being in the Cape and having achieved 22 million visitors. Minister Winde highlighted that 600 conferences and events had been held in the Western Cape in the past year.
Flaatten said that the vision going forward is to cross-sell the Western Cape in a three-prong Trade, Investment and Destination Marketing approach.
Embarrassing is the glowing write up in the Wesgro 2011-2012 Annual Report of Cape Town Tourism CEO and Wesgro Board member Mariette du Toit-Helmbold: ‘Under her leadership Cape Town Tourism has won critical acclaim as a Visitor Services and Destination Marketing Organisation doing sterling work at the coal face of one of the country’s fastest growing industries’. The City of Cape Town clearly does not agree, having taken the responsibility of Destination Marketing away from Cape Town Tourism, announced at the Cape Town Tourism AGM just a week ago!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: WhaleCottage
The national Department of Tourism has embarked on a welcome Tourism Service Excellence drive, and has released a draft document for comment from the industry until the end of February in developing a tourism service excellence standard and code, to enhance the tourist experience in South Africa.
The development of a ‘National Standard’ for Tourism Service Excellence by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) results from a 2008 National Tourism Skills Audit Report recommendation that customer care training in the tourism sector should be improved, when South Africa ranked 61st of 133 countries in The World Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report of 2009, coupled with inconsistent service delivery in tourism, ranging from very poor to very good. The reason for this was stated as being the lack of ‘integrated standards and norms that can be used as a guiding tool in terms of customer service’. To improve customer service, it was deemed necessary to develop a set of policies, guidelines and programmes, to ‘ensure a holistic approach and collective ownership’ for customer service, thereby improving service excellence throughout the tourism ‘value chain’. Such a standard would be developed for all businesses which come into contact with tourists, including the Immigration officials (criticised in the past for their unfriendliness), transport services, accommodation establishments, financial institutions, shops, and any other businesses and authorities which deal with tourists when they make bookings for their trip, when they arrive, and interact with them during their stay.
‘South Africa should be seen as the country that offers the best service, diverse experience and value for money. The overall purpose of this document is to emphasize the importance of the spirit of “Ubuntu” in ultimately achieving the vision of tourism growth and development in South Africa’, states the draft Service Standard document.
According to the Service Standard draft, tourism businesses would be required to support the principles of accessibility, accountability, accuracy, capacity building, commitment, consistency, continual improvement, courtesy, responsiveness, safety and security, value for money, and visible marketing in displaying the logo for the new Service Standard, in running their tourism businesses and operations. It is not only written for South Africa, but incorporates neighbouring countries such as Botswana, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, as if they are service extensions of our country’s tourism product.
The Service Standard document identifies government departments, as well as associations and groupings of tourism businesses which should adopt the service standard, and encourages its usage amongst its staff and members, including the Department of Home Affairs serving tourists on arrival and departure at airports; SA Tourism and the International Marketing Council in marketing the country; provincial tourism authorities; municipalities in providing visitor information services, signage, and infrastructure; telecommunication companies providing cellphone services; SARS for customs clearance; airports; the Banking Association; the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa, the industry quality assessment body, not mentioning FEDHASA, the industry hotel association, and the guest house association; the Banking Association; the Restaurant Association of South Africa (although not all restaurants belong to it); the Tourism Business Council of South Africa; and shopping centres.
Tourism businesses are expected to introduce a quality policy, to make service their focal point, to train new staff in service, to offer friendly and professional service, and to review their quality and services regularly. In running their tourism businesses, they are encouraged to focus on the following:
* Product: it should offer quality, choices and alternatives, ensure that there is enough staff to assist the tourists (this is the biggest challenge to the tourism industry, and would require a complete work ethic culture change amongst staff), offer value for money (a very relative term), universal accessibility for the disabled, ensure the safety and security of their clients, ensure guest information confidentiality, be environmentally friendly in its operation, and not discriminate against any types of clients.
* Service: should be friendly, professional, guest focused and driven, and offer an effective service recovery.
* Marketing: should have a consistent message, be accurate, be updated regularly to create realistic expectations for tourists, be truthful and honest, and not be offensive.
Although written in an academic form, the draft National Service Excellence standard is an excellent step forward for tourism service excellence. One is surprised that it has taken the Department of Tourism so long to work on the standard, and that it was not prepared in time for the 2010 World Cup. Most (commercial) tourism businesses would argue that they already apply the principles of service excellence in running their businesses, our country receiving praise for its friendliness and for walking the extra mile, and that it should be the government departments and bigger corporates who have a secondary tourism involvement that should be adopting the new service standard. The document contains a Tourism Service Excellence code for companies to use as a framework to design their own service excellence codes. As with most such documents, it has not been widely exposed to the tourism industry in terms of the input and feedback the SABS is seeking.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
Last week, taxing tips of waiters and other employees, who receive gratuities from customers for good service, was a hot topic on Twitter and other social media platforms, following the publishing of a clarification of the payment of tax on tips by SARS. Legal views confirm that employers cannot deduct PAYE, the Skills Development Levy (SDL), and UIF from employee income generated from tips, but it also means that the tip income of employees cannot be used as a basis for pension and medical aid benefits.
Business Report wrote that “Waitrons can keep their hard earned tips for themselves and don’t have to worry about the tax man… According to the last week’s ruling, the transfer of tips handed over to an employer by an employee for ‘safekeeping’ did not constitute a payment of remuneration”. This view is based on the Group Tips Policy, by which staff pass on their tips to their employers for safe-keeping whilst they are working. Legal firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr is quoted as saying that the Group Tips Policy sees tips “…as gratuitous payments to which the employees have no entitlement or an expectation of receipt as part of the performance of their duties”, and therefore should not be taxed.
Far more complex is an article by lawyer Stephan Spamer at ENS and candidate attorney Jonathan Sacks, writing on Moneyweb.co.za. They write that the increased usage of credit cards by customers for safety reasons has led to a large percentage of tips being added to credit card payments, going to the employer instead of the employee. The employer then has to transfer the tips to the employees. According to the Fourth Schedule to the Income Tax Act, 58 of 1962, ‘gross income’ includes ‘any amount received or accrued in respect of services rendered or to be rendered, including a voluntary award, as well as any amount received or accrued in respect of or by virtue of any employment’. The lawyers argue that a ‘causal relationship’between payment received and the service provided must exist for that income to be defined as ‘gross income’. On the basis of this relationship, the writers argue that the tip payment is part of gross income, and is therefore taxable, especially if the expectation at the time of appointment of the employee was to receive tips. The article becomes confusing when the writers argue that the definition of ‘remuneration’, including ‘all payments and amounts payable, in cash or otherwise, whether or not for services rendered and includes salary and wages, leave pay, bonuses, gratuities, commissions, over time pay and other amounts paid for services rendered as well as allowances and advances’, is similar to that of ‘gross income, but that it does not mean that the employer must deduct the valid taxes and deductions. They argue that it is not the employer paying the tip – in essence it is the customer paying it via the employer, who just holds the tip on the employees’ behalf, and therefore as this cannot be viewed as remuneration, no taxes and fees have to be deducted from the monies paid to employees. Employees can, however, request in writing that the employer deduct PAYE to reduced their tax liability. Given their conclusion that no tax is payable on tips by employees, the writers argue that no SDL and UIF is deductible either.
Given the complexity and legality of this SARS Tip Tax ruling, we quote an extract of an article on Moneyweb, written by Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr Employment Law Director Gillian Lumb and associate Pranisha Maharaj: :“ ”.
The new Tip Tax directive by SARS has been back-dated to August 2010, and covers the five year period from that date. This raises the following questions:
* Can employees that had PAYE, SDL and UIF deducted between August 2010 and July 2011 receive their tax and other deductions back, from the employer and/or SARS?
* Can employers deduct the tip income that went through their credit card machines, and was therefore deposited into the business bank account, from their taxable income for the calculation of VAT and income tax?
Interestingly, yet not surprising, the hotel association FEDHASA has not officially published a guideline about this Tip Tax amendment for their hotel and restaurant members! On Twitter, the FEDHASA Cape Director for the Restaurant sector, Rey Franco, wrote that tips received via credit card are taxable, and that only cash tips received by waiters directly are not taxable. We believe that, in the light of the above, he is incorrect.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage