Picture it: January 1st, 2021. Beach closures and subsequent cancellations have meant a dismal holiday season. As always, Mugg & Bean is open for trading, as this is the Viljoen family’s tradition.
Since 1985, they only ever close early on Christmas Eve – to allow their family and their staff to spend one proper evening at home with loved ones.
There’s a queue and a waiting list at the door. In the storeroom, 44 chairs are stacked – unused since March 2020.
The maximum capacity allowed now is 50 and, costly as it may be to a small business, the health of both customers and staff must take precedence.
Every time guests pay their bill and start to make their way home, there is a waiting period while the table and chairs are disinfected.
Laminated menus are wiped with disinfectant between each seating. It’s sweltering, but all staff, even those washing dishes unseen, are wearing cloth face masks, with waitrons having additional perspex face shields. They do not touch these masks – care has been taken to ensure that they fit properly and can be worn throughout the shift.
Before being seated, each patron (wearing a mask covering both their nose and mouth), must fill in a questionnaire with their details as well as a declaration that they are feeling well as well as having their temperature noted. A more detailed questionnaire is completed by each staff member before starting their shift, and again before they can head home.
Signage on the walls encourages diners to keep their face masks in place when not seated and enjoying their food and drinks. Stickers and tape on the floors indicate safe distances between tables and between staff and guests.
Sanitizing gel is placed on each table. All windows and doors are open to ensure maximum ventilation of fresh air. This has all been in place since reopening in July and will continue for as long as needed.
Mugg & Bean Jeffreys Bay does not just pay lip service to the guidelines given by health experts and authorities.
When asked about this strict adherence, owner Pirow Viljoen admits: “Of course, the time and costs associated with these rules have made a stressful period even more taxing. I can only reiterate what I have been saying for 35 years, pandemic or no pandemic – people are our greatest asset.
We would never risk the health of our staff, many of whom have been with us for decades, or our customers – the lifeblood of our business – for a few extra Rand.”
Manager Marinda Ackerman has a calming influence and her work ethic is an example to all. “This job has taught me so much about teamwork and responsibility. Covid has really amplified most people’s best traits. I try to learn from every experience. Our guests are a pleasure to serve.”
Senior griller Jackey Nelson, the staff nominated spokesperson, says they all feel very fortunate to still have the means to support their families. They are grateful to all the loyal local customers who have made this possible.
For waiter Martha Maclean the biggest adjustment has been learning not to hug her favourite customers, many of whom she missed greatly during the 3 months of levels 5 and 4 of the lockdown. “I was so happy to see most of my old friends again in July, we would often have a good cry the first time we saw each other.”
“We are committed to serving delicious, generous meals and drinks from our varied menu and ensuring that all our guests feel safe, welcome and happy to return.” says owner Trumie Viljoen.