Mzuni’s Culinary Art degree programme upskills creativity with local foods to boost domestic tourism

* This is after realizing that domestic tourism is booming and that the industry is opening up to local market

* We teach all aspect of the hospitality profession from operations to management and strategic management

Analysis by Duncan Mlanjira

As Malawi’s hospitality industry is opening up in their dining spaces to promote local dishes targeting domestic tourism market, Mzuzu University offers Culinary Art Degree, which encourages creativity with local foods.

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In an interview, Mzuni lecturer, Dr. Lameck Khonje said they “teach all aspect of the hospitality profession from operations to management and strategic management — all departments of the industry”.

“We infuse academic excellence with vacational skill competencies,” he said. “We have a BSc in Hospitality Management and it is a four year program.

“We also have a Culinary Art programme. This is after realizing that domestic tourism is booming and that the industry is opening up to local market.

“In Culinary Art Degree, we encourage creativity with local foods,” said Khonje, a South Africa-trained professional who did his Honours in Hospitality Management at Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

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He also has a Masters in Tourism and Hospitality Management obtained at University of Johannesburg and a Doctor of Philosophy at University of Witwatersrand.

Writing on his Facebook page last week, Kondwani Zulu talked of Ghana Village Restaurant within the environs of the Royal Lapalm Hotel on Labadi Beach in Accra, which he visited.

He said the hotel has four restaurants catering to various needs and in the Ghana Village Restaurant, “they only prepare local cuisine and the price is reasonable” and that it is the most patronized restaurant.

“It’s main clientele is not the guests but locals who come for food and drink,” he said, while reminiscing of such services that were offered at Vintage Restaurant at Ryalls years ago — now closed out to the public as Bar & Grill.

“Our hotels don’t seem to cater for non-guests and are elitist, save for Sportman Bar in Mount Soche,” he observed.

In response, Thomas Taimu said: “Our hotels are rooted into tradition. There are no efforts to innovate”, while Emmanuel Munthali said Mzuzu Hotel does lunches for the locals though restricted to week days only — something which Sunbird Mount Soche Hotel also offer on weekdays.

Leonard Zondetsa observed that the hospitality industry in Malawi in general “lacks creativity, inclusiveness and is too much focussed on making extraordinary profits from a tiny clientele — which is very elitist in nature.”

While marveling Ghana Village Restaurant’ services as described by Zulu, Zondetsa said for “far too long, our hotels have generally westernised the cuisine offered in their dining spaces. Our hotels need mindset change and carry out a market research on this subject.

“Notwithstanding, this practice is slowly changing as many a people are migrating to the consumption of more locally prepared foods. The prominence of the local foods on our menus can only be achieved if the hotels begin to realise that times have changed.”

He gave an example of Pamudzi Eatery & Bar — situated in Mandala residential area — whose local cuisine concept can be the best example that hotels need to emulate.

Last week, the public — especially those that patronise Pamudzi Eatery & Bar, marveled pictures of US Ambassador to Makwinja, David Young which the restaurant posted when the diplomat went to sample their sumptuous local cuisine.

Ambassador David Young


There are plenty other eateries in the country that offer just local cuisines, which are well patronized even by domestic guests in hotels, who leave their hosts’ catering services preferring appetizing local palate.

Zondetsa also observed the booming cuisine services offered by long route Stop Over restaurants and bars that are also promoting the local cuisine, saying though that “a lot has to be done to improve on aspects of hygiene, ambience/decor, service delivery and service people”.

He further observed “many a people are migrating to the consumption of more locally prepared foods”, adding that “the prominence of the local foods on our menus can only be achieved if the hotels begin to realise that times have changed”.

While taking cognizance that some hospitality providers, such as Sunbird Hotels have specific days in a week where they promote local dishes, Zondetsa believes that they need to dedicate “a well appointed dining space with a Malawian touch where such meals are prepared and consumed everyday, with reasonable pricing.

“We can make Malawi known for its culinary flare and eventually boost gastronomy tourism. We can do it,” he said.

When reached out to suggest to the hospitality business to change in doing the business, spokesperson for Department of Tourism, Simon Mbvundula said consumers need to know what services they want to be given, saying they have the right to good services.

“If customers are convinced that the service delivered to them does not equate to the value of money spent, they have the right to provide feedback to management and probably suggest ways on how best they would have loved to be served. By doing so, they are helping improve the hospitality business.”

Social media is also awash of concerns that most Malawian hotels and tourist resort along the shores of Lake Malawi are restrictive for local people’s visitation to which, Mbvundula said: “In a normal situation, no business entity that wants to maximise sales would restrict customers (guests) from patronising their premises”.

“That being said, some enterprises might have rights to admission not based on whether someone is local or international, but probably due to unavailability of space due to overbooking.

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“Much as walk-in customers are not discouraged, customers — especially locals — are highly encouraged to make advance bookings to avoid last minute disappointments.

“The Ministry of Tourism has developed a Tourism App (Visit Malawi). Local travellers can easily find all contacts of accommodation enterprises in Malawi and can therefore initiate advance bookings where necessary.”

Mzuni’s Dr. Khonje concurred with Mbvundula, saying: “Any hospitality outlets ought to open to all customers from all walks of life as long as one is willing to pay for the services offered there in.”

When asked if their is a platform where consumers can complain if offered poor services or being denied access to tourist resorts, Mbvundula said the first point of contact to raise a complaint to “is the enterprise where the customer is dissatisfied”.

“Whenever customers have an issue with a property, they have the right to engage the property to see to it that the issue is resolved. Complaints can be lodged at the physical site, through their emails, social media channels or they can even call.”

Should that first step fail to materialise, Mbvundula said customers or the general public can officially lodge their complaints to the Department of Tourism, through an email: info@visitmalawi.mw.

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There is a thorny issue of some hospitality properties — especially those managed by foreign investors — that quote prices of their services in foreign currency as way of restricting locals, to which Mbvundula emphasized that Malawi’s currency of trading is the Malawi kwacha.

“Unless otherwise, properties quoting prices in foreign currencies should have reasons that can be well accepted by the Reserve Bank of Malawi. If in doubt and the property is not licenced to undertake business in foreign currency, the public is encouraged to report the transactions to Reserve Bank of Malawi.”

He also emphasized that the public is encouraged to patronise only properties that are legally operating, saying legally operating properties are licenced on a yearly basis.

“Tourism operating licences are displayed at the reception of every legally operating enterprise and it is the right of the customer to ask or request for it if the property is not displaying the tourism operating licence,” he said.

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