Even before President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an extension to the lockdown, we noted something curious happening – fast food companies selling their stock as essential goods.

Mind you, the companies aren’t open in the sense that you can pop into your local takeaway and pick up your regular order. No, instead these firms are selling frozen meals and sundry, which folks can order and have delivered to their homes.

One such firm is Kauai.

Last week Mr D Food announced that it would be delivering frozen meals, smoothie mixes, protein powders and health snacks on behalf of Kauai Real Food Market.

This struck as odd because, while healthier than other options, Kauai is still considered fast food.

As it turns out, Kauai is not breaking the regulations currently in place as chief executive officer of Real Foods, the parent company of Kauai, Dean Kowarski explains.

“We support President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call for a national lockdown and want to do our part in helping our customers, staff and SA stay healthy, so have closed all our restaurants for the duration of the lockdown,” says Kowarski.

“Kauai Real Food Market is a new food retail business that we have established during the lockdown, to help South Africans access healthy food via delivery, through our delivery partners Mr D Food and UberEats. The product range consists of retail products for preparation at home, like our frozen ready-made meals & smoothie packs (which are already available at selected Pick n Pay supermarkets); it also includes a range of Kauai snacks, protein powders and selected Kauai ingredients like Schoon bread & nut butters,” adds the CEO.

So Kauai is not Kauai Real Food Market, in fact it’s an entirely new company. The newly formed Kauai Real Food Market has received a certificate from the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) stating that it is allowed to operate during lockdown as it is rendering an essential service.

We have to admit, there’s a beauty in the simplicity there.

While Kauai Real Food Market might be new, it is leveraging the benefits of the long-established Kauai and Real Foods infrastructure.

“There have not been significant set-up costs, as we are tapping into our existing retail products and ingredients, and finding new channels to offer these to consumers (i.e. at-home delivery). We have used our existing head office team and supply chain to set up this new business,” says Kowarski.

Another firm seemingly doing this is Netflorist, which launched fresh produce deliveries last week and this week has seemingly expanded to selling other essentials as well. With a fleet of delivery vehicles and access to places which stock fresh produce moves like this make sense.

But what about smaller businesses? Could they pivot like Kauai and Netflorist?

As you might be aware businesses need to apply for a certificate to operate during lockdown even if they render an essential service. This can be done online at the BizPortal website set up by government a few weeks back.

This is where things get a bit hazy though. Businesses need to be registered with the CIPC and while it seems as if new businesses can still be registered, we aren’t able to go through this process and verify this. We have contacted CIPC to verify this but we have not received a response by time of publication.

Of note however is that businesses which applied for a certificate to operate during lockdown can update their business category as well as the number of employees required to work during lockdown on their application.

We’d like to stress at this stage that businesses not offering essential goods shouldn’t try to use this as a loophole. There are heavy punishments associated with operating a non-essential service right now.

We urge any business that is considering pivoting to selling an essential service to do their due diligence before diving in head first.

For smaller businesses which can offer an essential good but don’t have the robust infrastructure bigger firms do services such as Bolt Business Delivery can be used to get items to customers.

We suspect in the coming days and weeks we will see several more businesses pivoting to offer customers essential goods in ways we haven’t even thought of yet.

With lockdown extended by two more weeks, we’re sure more businesses will be pivoting and we can’t really blame them.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]