One of South Africa’s most popular chain of steak ranches has experienced a revolt from certain sections of the white community in protest against the company’s decision to ban a man from all its restaurants – and it’s hurt sales.
The boycott followed an incident at Texamo Spur in The Glen Shopping Centre in Johannesburg last month in which a white male grabbed a black child during a children’s party in front of his mother.
One of Spur’s resolutions was to ban the man from all Spurs nationwide – a decision that resulted in the boycott.
The Daily Maverick reported that Front Nasionaal, the right-wing political party formed before the 2014 elections, tried to claim credit for the boycott.
Mark Farrelly, Spur chief operating officer, told City Press that those several of its restaurants were affected by the boycott, but there were other economic factors that may be contributing to the low turnover.
City Press: How is Spur going to handle racial or other serious incidents at its shops in future?
Farrelly: Spur has asked Professor Elmien du Plessis, of the faculty of law at North-West University, to convene a panel of inquiry into this incident to help the company determine its response to the incident as well as any future incidents.
The report will be made available to the public so that not only Spur but anyone in South Africa can learn from it.
Who else besides Professor du Plessis is part of the panel appointed to deal with that matter?
Professor du Plessis is operating independently and has sent out invitations to experts who represent a cross-section not only of the South African community at large but also representative of a diversity of opinions across the sociopolitical spectrum. Once we have finalised the panel – which should be by June 22 – we will announce the names and pertinent details of the panellists.
What are the outcomes and recommendations of the panel and if not yet released when are they due?
The panel will conduct hearings during the last week in June and submissions from interested parties, as well as relevant testimony will be heard. The report should be available in the middle of July. Once again to ensure the independence of the panel, outcomes and recommendations are not in any way prescribed by Spur. Details about how the panel will conduct its very important business will be announced with the names of panellists.
How are your businesses affected because of the incident and how much has been lost so far because of it?
This boycott is affecting a minority of Spur branches in areas that used to be strongholds of the old Conservative Party. Spur Corporation is a solid company with a diverse portfolio whose growth and performance in the past have been resilient, and we expect that to continue. Spur is, however, greatly concerned about the effect of the boycott on individual franchisees who are the hardest hit by this action and the effect on the people employed by them.
It is common cause that consumer confidence took a severe blow when Pravin Gordhan was fired as minister of finance. Car sales are down, foot counts in shopping malls are down, and the economy is, at best, lacklustre. Under these trying circumstances, which affect the economy as a whole, we have been surprised by the resilience of Spur restaurants.
Has the company been approached officially by a group alleging to boycott it and what was the discussion about if they did?
There has been no official approach, but the initial demand was that the “gentleman” who grabbed the child and acted in a physically aggressive manner towards a woman and her children be unbanned. The demands started to include the resignation of the chief executive Pierre van Tonder and have now morphed into demands that Spur should stop complying with legal and constitutional requirements around black economic empowerment and affirmative action. Spur is clearly just a target for any demand they can dream up at this stage, and we will keep conducting our business in an ethical and responsible manner, and we will not give in to blackmail or extortion of any kind.
What changes is Spur going to make as a result of the incident and loss of business?
We will continue to conduct our business in the manner we have and will support the franchisees targeted by this uninformed, prejudiced boycott in any way we can.