The Deck, a pizzeria, grill and pub located adjacent to the Pioneer Road circle in New Europa, was opened amidst much fanfare from its founders in September 2017. It serves different delicacies and beverages to both young and middle-aged people after the owners observed there was a gap for this age groups in the market.
“Some of the middle class want to eat out but in an indigenous and neighbourly local food and drinks setting,” said one of the founding partners Thabang Kou.
“We found it necessary to establish a place of this nature. Patrons want to spend their money where they feel they belong and have a sense of ownership. There is a mix of camaraderie and local food here.”
It is a chilly Wednesday afternoon and partners Kou and Ikhetheleng Matabane are busy arranging a menu and logistics for the Maseru Rotary function to be held at the King’s Palace on the following weekend. Kou is fiddling with e-mails to contact suppliers on his phone and Matabane is on the laptop doing some accounting.
A senior chef is adamant they will need an order of at least 20 kg of trout fish while there is also a mention of other sea food for the weekend’s menu.
“We have some of the experienced chefs around,” business partner Tumisang Mokoai said. “Our food says it all.”
Mokoai said both Kou and Matabane were great minds that kept the Deck’s wheel spinning as they were behind the day-to-day running of the restaurant.
Kou is a seasoned building contractor and Matabane is a chartered accountant who was amongst a cohort of professionals that moved to South Africa in the early 1990’s after the big neighbour became a democracy.
Former radio personality and diplomat, Mokoai, is obviously the most vocal during the interview. He said an idea that culminated 14 months earlier was progressing steadily as patrons were coming in their numbers.
“Everybody comes here,” he said. “From government officials, corporate leaders, lecturers, to expatriates.”
A stone’s throw from the neighbouring South Africa on the banks of Mohokare River, the Deck overlooks a river stream engulfed by green trees and other rich vegetation in the periphery.
Matabane said a limited equity was a constraint for the business to operate optimally. “There’s a lot of capacity although the business is in its infancy,” he said. “We are basically operating on a shoe-string budget but there are no worries for a start-up.”
The Deck employs at least 20 workers from chefs to waiters, cashiers, drivers, security. “The business is already contributing to the economy,” said Matabane. “Generating a profit maybe in a distant future but we have added to the job numbers.”
Mokoai said the locals were finally having a hang of eating out. “Many businesses failed in the past because Basotho didn’t have a culture of eating out except for men who have remained loyal to spending money in beer holes,” he said.
“Now it’s not just beer but good food as well.”
With the increase in income and a sophisticated lifestyle, Basotho are having a discretionary income to spend on luxuries. Traditional roles of women as house makers and men as providers have also shifted somewhat as both sexes go out to eke out a living.
The Deck is becoming popular on Thursday’s as ladies get a discount on most food and drinks, courtesy of a Ladies’ Night special. On this night, a resident DJ plays an array of contemporary music much to the enjoyment of patrons.
“The potential business of this place is amazing,” said Mokoai. “We hope to turn this space into the equivalent of Rivonia on Deck in Sandton. We want to be a serious joint.”
Matabane said: “The Deck is looking at potential investors who are serious about their return on investment. We aim to build a multi-million maloti brand where investors will be assured of their capital plus interest.”