Marietjie Vorster relies on imported specialty ingredients to run her South African restaurant and supermarket.
But with the supply chain broken under the pressure of Covid-19, the Gore restaurateur is no longer able to secure supplies from abroad and instead has to travel two hours to Dunedin to get the specialized products that she needs for both sites.
The Rustic Cafe and Restaurant owner moved to Southland in 2015, having emigrated from South Africa to Auckland in 1999.
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“We came from Auckland where we had a stationery store, then I went to food and wine school and graduated as a chef, then took a barista course and a wine class then we came down here [to visit friends] and I saw this beautiful old building… and here we are.
Vorster opened the site on Irk St in December 2017, and in 2021 opened the only specialist South African supermarket in Southland, but with shipping containers blocked in ports around the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic , she is struggling to import the goods she needs for both sites.
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“Right now we’re just struggling to get products,” she said.
“It’s just across the board…It’s a problem with the containers, they’re just sitting there and they’re not going anywhere. The supply chain is breaking.
She had started building relationships in South Africa to import the ingredients, but with messy flights as the borders opened up, she hadn’t been able to travel and conversations over the phone proved too difficult.
“So I had to find a local supplier and then that chain breaks, so I went to Dunedin to see what he had. [the closest South African supermarket] I have what the other doesn’t have, so I can try to fill the shelves,” she said.
Once she has secured the ingredients, the next challenge is to find enough mouths to feed them as well.
Previously Vorster had South Africans traveling from as far away as Milton and Balclutha for a ‘taste of home’.
But, in recent months, the streets of Gore have been “so quiet you could have rolled them”, she said.
She believed the situation was due to clients being too scared to leave the house due to the Omicron wave, and of those on the move, many had been unable to enter her room until recently due requirements for the passage of vaccines in hospitality.
Many of her regular customers, with whom she had built strong relationships over the years, were unvaccinated and their exclusion had had a “significant” impact on Vorster’s business.
She expected it would take time for hospitality to recover given that many people had adjusted to a ‘new normal’ of eating less in restaurants, but she was confident the situation would end. by improving.
“South Africans can be very stubborn, we won’t give in…you have to trust that things will get better, and they will get better.”