South Africa opens Africa’s first Covid-designed dining experience in Cape Town

by Tania Wannenburg
South Africa opens Africa’s first Covid-designed dining experience in Cape Town

Real Foods Group, a leader in natural foods with 170 Kauai stores in its portfolio, opens an innovative concept in Kloof Street, Cape Town today which reconceptualises what is needed for patrons to eat out stress-free in a time of Covid-19. It has housed four of its fast-casual dining brands in a post-Covid dining setting: Nü Health Food Café, Schoon Bread Café, and newcomers Free Bird and Kofi.

Dean Kowarski, CEO of Real Foods, says, “Covid-19 has changed casual dining, so we’ve embraced the new requirements for a safe dining experience at Kloof Street Village and have considered how people want to socialise. Although the site was secured prior to lockdown, we completely redesigned the restaurant during lockdown by  conceptualising what it would take for maximum health and safety. The store features perspex screens to cordon off certain areas, while still allowing for a social vibe between socially distanced tables. Technology is used to facilitate contactless transactions and there is a large outdoor seating area for fresh-air and summer socialising.”.

All staff must wear masks at all times and are trained on strict hygiene protocols, like sanitising and hand-washing. Buzzers go off every 30 minutes to remind staff to sanitise or wash their hands.

Kloof Street Village offers much more than each of the four brand’s commitment to high quality, wholesome and artisanal food made from fully traceable ingredients.

The technology includes self-order kiosks as well as a mobile app using QR codes for ordering from any of the four restaurants for take-away or sit down. The mobi app can also be used to order ahead, and all take-away orders can be picked up in a dedicated contactless area. Those customers who prefer to place their order in person can make use of the counter service, though all counters will have protective perspex screens to protect customers and staff.

Large fold-stack windows were added to the design to allow for better ventilation and air circulation. The space was designed with additional measures to minimise the risk of spreading Covid-19, including sanitisation stations and handwashing facilities.

Kofi and Nü have outdoor ordering hatches so that customers can order coffees or Nü’s healthy juices and smoothies without having to enter the store. There is also a completely separate entrance for UberEats & Mr.D Food delivery drivers, limiting the number of people in the store, while ensuring customers have access to their favourite food brands.

Kloof Street Village patrons have an array of healthy food options. The established Nü brand includes trademark healthy salads, juices and smoothies while Schoon sells wholesome bread and pastries made with 100% South African stoneground flour using hand-baking methods.

Two new concepts make their debut at Kloof Street Village: Kofi, which serves exceptional small-batch roasted African coffee in addition to a wine, beer and spirits list curated by Publik Wine; and Free Bird, which offers delicious free-range crispy chicken burgers and hand-cut fries.

First retail location for Free Bird

Says Kowarski, “Free Bird has been trading as a virtual brand in dark kitchens around Cape Town, Sandton and Pretoria and its success prompted us to open our first physical retail location. It offers a differentiated, premium, free range crispy chicken burger and strips concept including hand-cut fries . The hand-made brioche burger buns are from Schoon bakery in Stellenbosch, and condiments like pickled vegetables and authentic kimchi are made in-house using fresh ingredients. It’s re-imagining comfort food for a modern era.”

Launch of new fifth wave coffee brand, Kofi

Fifth wave coffee aims to make consistently high-quality “boutique” coffee accessible, in a customer centric environment. Kofi’s concept centres on great coffee sourced directly from small-scale African coffee farmers, small batch-roasted in Cape Town, with a meticulous focus on quality from bean, to roasting, to brewing. “Design elements are sophisticated without any pretentiousness, offering exceptional coffee served by knowledgeable, approachable baristas,” explains Kowarski. Water and milk for the highly trained baristas at Kofi will be piped into the bespoke espresso machine to minimise handling of liquids, in line with Kloof Street Village’s focus on post-Covid safety.

Collaborative design from some of SA’s top architects & designers

 The Covid-friendly design was a collaborative effort from four South African architects & designers: award-winning architectsJon Jacobson and Jean-Mari Steyn of  Metropolis Design led the project, working alongside Tristan Du Plessis of Studio A (global winner of the 2019 Restaurant & Design Awards), Marco Simal of Simal Studio and interior designer Nina Du Plessis. The architects and designers worked together to create a clean, modern space that flows beautifully, with Covid-safe functions. The challenge was to ensure that each brand retained its own unique identity, while complementing the overall design. “We wanted to create a warm, inviting village-like local hub. A welcoming space with exceptional food, great coffee and a superb drinks list”, says Glenda Philp, Head of Strategic Projects at Real Foods.

Kowarski concludes that Covid-19 has elevated the importance of wholesome eating to keep communities healthy. “In that sense, Covid-19 fits with our mission to ensure that healthy food is easily accessible and convenient. It’s been a challenging few months, but we are excited to innovate and introduce more new products and brands. Kloof Street Village is a comfortable, safe space where friends can socialise over coffee, breakfast or lunch, or meet up for an after-work drink and casual dinner,” he concludes.

The venue is situated at the corner of Kloof and Rheede Streets in Cape Town, and is open Monday to Sunday, from 7:00 – 22:00 daily.

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