Pop up restaurants, commonly known as kwaMother or kwaGogo, are proving popular in the Avenues area, offering a cheaper lunch for residents and workers.
These home-spun restaurants operate during lunch hours only from residential flats and mainly serve sadza and rice alongside various relishes such as maguru, matumbu, beef and chicken. The names kwaGogo or kwaMother are derived from the operators who are mainly women of an older age.
Food is prepared in the flat’s kitchen and eat-in customers are served in the lounge where they can relax for the whole lunch period watching cable television. Regular customers have the choice of bringing their own relish for lunch, which is cooked for a fee.
Contacted for comment, the City’s Health Department said the pop-up restaurants are operating illegally as health regulations do not permit the selling of food in residential places. City of Harare’s director of Health Services, Dr Stanley Mungofa, said his department carries out various types of inspections on registered restaurants every year, aimed at maintaining high health standards so pop up restaurants are not covered, as they are unknown.
“My advice to the public is not to purchase and consume food from unlicensed premises because their operations are unknown. In the case of an outbreak of food poisoning environmental health officers will not be able to trace the source,” said Dr Mungofa.
However, pop-up restaurants have been credited for bringing cheaper options to the workforce in the Avenues. The area is full of top class restaurants that charge prices that feel exorbitant to average earners.
“I prefer buying my lunch kwaMother because the sadza is much cheaper as compared to restaurants in this area,” said Admire Chipurupuru (31) who works along Sam Nujoma Street.
The meals at pop-up restaurants range from $1 to $3, with T-bone steak the most expensive item on the menu. At higher end restaurants in the area, the cheapest lunch costs an average of $5.
Some customers said they were not concerned with the health implications of eating food from unlicensed sources as they were only after cheap lunch. “Sometimes you might have reservations about the hygiene levels in these kitchens, but you cannot find any cheaper sources of lunch around here,” said Silas Manuere (47) a vendor along Baines Avenue.
Others are more concerned. “The city was hit by a typhoid outbreak in 2012 whose origins were not traceable. It is in the best interests of everyone if we only consume food from our homes or legal restaurants,” said Thelma Thomas (24) who lives in the Avenues area.
One pop-up restaurant operator who spoke on condition of anonymity said that she has had to employ a helper as she can no longer cope alone. During working days, her restaurant serves lunch to an average of 20 people.
“I sell meat I get from Koala and vegetables are from Mbare Musika. Food is served while hot so my operations are hygienic. I am not afraid of authorities because some of my customers are council workers so my safety is guaranteed,” boasted the illegal restaurant operator.