27-09-2021 by Freddie del Curatolo
Hotels beefing up bar service, resorts turning rooms into self-contained flats, restaurants moving happy hours to 11am or 4pm.
These are just some of the changes the hospitality and catering industry in Kenya has undergone to adapt to the pandemic period.
Already in the run-up to Christmas 2020, the coastal trade associations had seriously raised the issue of curfews, after bars and restaurants in particular had been severely restricted. Bars were totally closed for six months and restaurants, which had to close at 8 p.m., could not sell alcohol.
In a country where 'spirit' is one of the driving economic forces in the entertainment sector, this meant the collapse of many public places.
Today the situation has improved, although the forced closure regime remains, from 10 pm to 4 am, with bars open until 7 pm and restaurants able to offer their services until 9 am, the time when they are forced to close to allow staff to return to their homes within an hour.
For their part, hotels have decided to focus on special offers to convince those who, before the pandemic, were simply customers of discotheques (now almost all closed) and pubs, to spend the night in their establishments, boosting the bar service and offering rooms at ridiculously low prices, counting on the possibility of earning money with extras.
The offers of many hotels on the coast also think of families, including and implementing "facilities" for children: games, attractions and even staff to take care of them, while parents can relax and possibly raise their glasses.
Access to food at all hours and in a very natural way, with show cooking and food outlets open non-stop: this is another formula that allows facility managers to retain their guests. In a nutshell, the famous all-inclusive that once applied to drinking now applies to food. You pay for the drinks and eat what you want.
This is the case of some clubs in Nairobi that offer free grilled meat and chips and "all you can eat" in exchange for the obligation to spend the entire night, from 9 pm to 4 am, in their establishment.
How? By booking a bed that most probably no one will use. But it is the ideal ploy to turn the clients of a nightclub into hotel guests, thus protected from restrictions and curfews, with the possibility of making the most of the fun even without excessive "movida".
On the other hand, the commercial instinct of survival of hotel structures has pushed restaurateurs, who have found themselves unexpected competitors, especially in the evening hours, to look for new formulas to involve their potential customers.
So, alongside normal lunches and dinners, morning "happy hours" or afternoon marathons with 3x2 cocktails are springing up (in Nairobi we also saw promising 4x6 and 6x8 on beers and, alas, even spirits) and for them too food becomes an accessory. Snacks, appetizers, one-course meals and the immortal pizza, the most sought-after offerings, are the side dishes to drinking.
Half immune, little vaccinated but increasingly tipsy. The pandemic in Kenya is also this and those who have chosen the job of welcoming and serving the public cannot ignore this trend, indeed they tend to follow it and take advantage of it.
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