COVID-19 derails Simbisa expansion plans

BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA

EXPANSION plans by Zimbabwe’s largest food chain Simbisa Brands Limited’s (SBL) have been put off the rails by the fast-spreading COVID-19 pandemic which has grounded most businesses.

The company said it had plans to open over 25 new stores and employ up to 500 new employees this year, but this now depends on how the situation pans out at the end of the 30-day lockdown measure imposed by government this month.

Since last week Tuesday, businesses started operating between 8am and 3pm in addition to the implementation of several other preventive measures prescribed by health authorities.

“We are trying to work around the whole situation. For 30 days? Let us hope that it doesn’t continue past that. One thing we are doing this year is that we want to aggressively open over 25 or 30 stores this year,” Simbisa managing director Warren Meares told NewsDay Business yesterday.

“We want to open as many stores as we can this year because I truly believe that Zimbabwe is on the up and when that happens we need to be up there too to make sure that we have our stores in all the areas we always wanted to be like Chitungwiza, Bulawayo Road towards N Richards by the roundabout, Kuwadzana area, Chegutu, Kadoma, Rusape, and Chirundu.

“We want everyone to be able to access our stores, so this is definitely a year of growth, aggressive growth and we are looking at employing between 400 and 500 new staff members.”

The plan to open the new stores and employ more staffers comes as the business has done well ever since Treasury allowed the use of the greenback on the market.

As a measure to deal with the reduced business hours, Simbisa has come up with a system where workers will take turns and only work for two weeks each during the lockdown.

“Even if you come to our offices now, half of our staff is at work and the other half is at home. We may have one or two casuals like in the small towns where maybe there were a few people laid off, but it’s very few and I think we have already started asking them to come back,” Meares said.

“Initially, there were a few who were asked to stay at home until we worked out the contracts because remember the first day we were closed. In fact, for the first two days nothing was opened so once we got our letter to allow us to start operating we started calling everyone back … Maybe we can talk to the (Industry) ministry to see if we can get more hours to operate past
3pm.”

Meares said SBL employees working from home were receiving their wages, but monthly grocery hampers had been suspended to reduce costs.

The company operates fast-food brands such as Chicken Inn, Pizza Inn, Creamy Inn, Baker’s Inn, Fish Inn, Galito’s Africa, Nando’s, Steers and Vida E Caffe and delivery service, Dial-a-Delivery.

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