By Duncan Mlanjira
Sana Food Court in Lilongwe assures the general public that its closure last month by Tourism and Hotels Board was not fully due to the allegations leveled against it that it was failing to completely comply with all required standards but just minimum ones that were rectified within two days.
Manager Ali Muhammad said just two days after closure, the authorities gave the popular restaurant in the Capital City the go ahead to be reopened but management decided to stay closed for one week to rearrange themselves to provide more best services.
“In the meantime, our valued customers did not realize that were came back to business just a few days later even better and we promise to raise the bar,” Ali said.
“It was just some misunderstanding because we hosted a big event and when Indian food was being prepared, some of the oil and food coloring got splashed on one part of the kitchen wall.
“After the event some of the staff were photographing each other without realising they were in front of the messed wall.
“The picture was posted on social media and it went viral and following negative comments it prompted the Tourism and Hotels Board and Malawi Bureau of Standards to make a surprise visit.
“But we had already cleaned the said wall even before the picture was posted on Facebook but still we were closed down after a few other shortfalls were observed.
“These shortfalls took just two days to be rectified and we were reopened,” he said.
Ali, who said he has 25 years in restaurant management business, added that some customers are not aware that it was reopened soon after and he assures them to patronise them to sample some of the new services they now are offering.
“For the past five years we have been in operation, we have always strived to offer the best services and we are even better now as the biggest restaurant in Lilongwe with the capacity to host close to 1,500 guests for special functions.”
The restaurant is part of Sana Supermarket and is situated close to Kamuzu Central Hospital Roundabout.
Director of Tourism Isaac Katopola in the Ministry of Industry, Trade & Tourism confirmed that the food service provider reopened after a week when they rectified all shortfalls and also did some refurbishment on it private restaurant.
When closing it, Katopola said the shortfalls that they discovered at the public food outlet included lack of satisfactory hygiene in the kitchen where food is produced, greasy walls and doors, contrary to the Tourism and Hotels Act, CAP 50:01 of the laws of Malawi.
Katopola also said lack of fresh coat of paint in some back areas are some of the shortfalls as well as serious stains in workers change showers.
Ali said said the workers change showers have been improved and that the staff have been provided with extra kitchen gear in order to have the used ones laundered immediately.
Katopola had said they were tipped by the public of the shortfalls but it was also a follow up on earlier annual inspection recommendations.
He appealed to the general public to continue offering bonafide tips since they are the users and have first hand experience.
Minimum standards for operation of every Tourism Enterprise are listed and provided for in the Tourism and Hotels Board regulations and for restaurants they range from kitchen hygiene, to provision of uniforms, to separation of dry and fresh supplies storage, amongst the long list.
Copies of regulations are available at the Department of Tourism offices.
According to the Tourism and Hotels Act, penalties on breach of regulations of enterprise include verbal warning, moratorium granted of days to month to rectify the shortfalls or immediate closure with time period to rectify or complete closure.