Johannesburg, South Africa — New niche restaurant, Hoovers, has seen disappointing turnouts on its highly anticipated opening weekend. This following the lifting of strict Covid-19 Lockdown measures, which once more allows the public to patronise eat-in establishments.
The brain-child of entrepreneur couple, Wendy and Arby MacDonald, Hoovers is the first of its kind, branding itself as an exclusive ‘moms only’ eatery with a kitchen staffed predominantly by children. The MacDonalds are quick to clarify that their employment policies are totally ‘above board.’
“The majority of our kitchen staff are essentially volunteers,” explains Wendy. “How it works is, moms can either come alone — you know, if they have the luxury of spending money on a meal plus a babysitter — or with their kids. Any children who come along will be invited to the kitchen, where they get to play and hone their budding chef skills preparing (and snacking on!) delicious meals — under friendly adult supervision, of course! Meanwhile, the moms get to sit at their own table with some peace and quiet (just imagine it, ladies!)…before enjoying some tasty treats prepared by their own little darlings. Of course, we can’t legally give the children monetary compensation for their ‘work’,” Wendy adds, “but they are rewarded with (basically) free meals and desserts of their choice.”
“It’s a very unique business model we’ve developed here, and we’re very excited that it could truly take off once people get a taste for what we’re all about.”
The restaurant, which boasts the tagline ‘Nom Noms for Moms,’ prides itself on its versatile buffet and a la carte menus which claim to feature a wide line-up of ‘proven mom favourites.’ The ‘Weeknight Wonders’ menu, for example, features such treats as Naked Fish Fingers, Chicken Nugget 1000-Islands Soup, and Old Beggar’s Teeth (a low-carb version of Corn on the Cob). The restaurant offers an ‘All-you-can-stomach’ buffet breakfast on Saturdays for just R50 per person, which offers a full gamut of creative mixed cereal bowls, fresh fruit & vegetables sticks, French Toast bites and ‘scrambled egg surprise.’
“Our signature dish is our Gourmet Finger Food Basket,” beams Wendy. “No mom could say no to this delectable collection of pre-microwaved vienna sausage bites, pizza crusts, tomato-sauce covered cocktail sausage rolls, and carefully matured apple slices.”
According to Head of Research and Marketing, Kay Ford-Carter, the menu was inspired and developed in line with more than 5 years of in-depth research conducted by a sizeable in-field marketing squad.
“Our team has been out observing mothers across the country in their natural home environments, because we wanted to get an authentic and accurate reflection of their natural eating and snacking preferences — particularly when they believe no one is watching,” explains Ford-Carter. “The research gave surprisingly consistent findings across the board. Of course, there are some minor discrepancies according to cultural and economic factors, but on the whole it’s clear what moms really crave, judging by behavioural statistics.”
“I admit some of the data was a little surprising to us at first,” notes Wendy. “It’s clear moms have a very unique palette — things that might seem distasteful to childless adults of similar age and background seem to be catnip to moms! Not being a mom myself, who am I to judge! We just want to give moms what they want!”
“It’s more of a branding tactic than a strict policy. We know our target market and we honestly don’t expect our offering to appeal to anyone else. At the same time, we believe moms need a place to go and eat out that caters specifically to them — especially considering what they’ve had to cope with lately”
“It’s a very unique business model we’ve developed here,” says Arby, “and we’re very excited that it could truly take off once people get a taste for what we’re all about.”
For now, though, the restauranteurs say they’re “gutted” and “confounded” by the low turnout on opening weekend.
“It was disappointing and a little disconcerting for the whole team,” says restaurant manager, Ronnie Burger. “After this trying Lockdown period, we were expecting moms to be flocking in droves to get their kids off their hands for a bit and enjoy a relaxed meal by themselves.”
According to an anonymous source who was watching from across the road, a lady with two small children in tow was seen taking a peek at the Hoovers menu which was on display outside the restaurant. Minutes later, the woman reportedly began dragging her screaming offspring across the road, and managed to placate them at a nearby ice-cream store.
“It’s unclear to me exactly what transpired between the mom and her kids,” says the source, “but I could tell both parties were confused and disappointed — maybe for different reasons, I’m not too sure.”
Another anonymous source on site told reporters that he’d mistaken the restaurant for another very similarly named establishment. When he entered and saw a mom sitting at one of the tables openly breastfeeding her baby, he was very confused, and found himself being hurriedly escorted from the restaurant by staff members.
When asked if they were worried about facing strong criticism — possibly even legal action — for their rather exclusive and sexist customer policy, the MacDonalds responded:
“People need to know that it’s more of a branding tactic than a strict policy. We know our target market and we honestly don’t expect our offering to appeal to anyone else. At the same time, we believe moms need a place to go and eat out that caters specifically to them — especially considering what they’ve had to cope with lately, juggling kids, home-schooling, work and still managing their households, all while trying to get their families safely through this pandemic!”
As many restaurants try to find their feet again after a very difficult year, the Hoovers team is staying positive about the future.
“We really believe our market research is solid, so we’ve been working hard the past few days trying to figure out where things might have gone wrong,” says Arby. “We don’t have the answers yet, but for now we’re putting it down to post-Lockdown anxiety and financial strain. So we’re going to be patient. Sooner or later those moms are bound to come out foraging for a tasty morsel or two!”