Chesa nyamas give established restaurants food for thought

Chesa nyamas are a favourite hangout of township residents, but these eateries are now heading for upmarket suburbs. Photo: Bongani Mnguni

The traditional chesa nyama is shaking up the food industry.

Restaurant database Zomato has seen a growth in braai joints over the past year. But these kasi establishments are no longer limiting themselves to Dube or Garankuwa.

They are moving to the suburbs and competing with more established eateries.

“South Africans love chesa nyama, or braai, and the trend indicates a repackaging of something very familiar in a new and accessible format. It’s a massive part of South African culture, so it has only been a matter of time for the concept to move out of our backyards or streets and into more formal eating establishments,” said Justin Griesel, marketing associate at Zomato.

“People want the taste of chesa nyama, with the convenience and service levels of higher-end restaurants.”

Zomato has eight braai spots on its database, which are mostly in Jozi’s posh northern suburbs, including the famous Mash Braai House, Rivonia on Deck, Meat Lounge, Braai Room, Flames, Marble, as well as Soweto favourites Chaf Pozi and Sakhumzi.

Of the eight, four have opened in the last year. Many of these restaurants, such as Marble and Flames, describe their food as “fine dining”, but they use open-flame techniques, Griesel said.

South African cuisine is still not the most popular search term on the Zomato platform, but their page views have grown by 56 percent over the past 12 months, and Griesel sees room for more growth.

He said the increase was in line with Zomato’s expansion over the same period. The growth hasn’t just been in the higher end of the market, but there has been an overall increase in the availability and popularity of chesa nyamas in all sections of the industry.

“We’re also seeing due to economic conditions a drive towards value over expense and restaurant owners and patrons can simply get more value out of this dining concept than other versions available,” Griesel said.

“At the same time, a growing demand and a change in demographics is changing the demand for these types of establishments in areas where there wasn’t any demand beforehand.”

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