The online restaurant
The aftermath of lock-down restrictions in South Africa has woken up entrepreneurial instincts in people from the townships. Some restaurants have evolved into ‘virtual’ ones.
According to a BBC feature story, some restaurants now receive only online orders and make deliveries using bicycles.
These restaurants have to be creative because South Africa has not completely done away with restrictions; it has simply downgraded the regulations to level one. This means that these restaurants cannot fill up their spaces with customers in a sardine style yet.
The restaurants take the orders in the morning and are able to determine how much meat, chicken or French flies they need for the day. This cuts down on left-over food tremendously. At the same time situations where the restaurant gets more customers than the food can go round are avoided.
It is also good for the customers; instead of going out looking for food during a working lunch hour, food goes looking for customers. South Africa has a different work ethic; work starts after eight and continues non-stop until five. They grab a snack as they work.
Can this model work in Malawi? Yes with a few innovations in our payment system.
TNM Mpamba and Airtel Money are very popular and wonderful products. The problem is that both these products are one-way traffic. Payment is effected from Airtel’s or TNM’s side. If you want to buy anything, say electricity tokens, you need to fire Mpamba or Airtel Money app or USSD.
While that is fine, it entails that if the restaurants in Blantyre, Zomba, Lilongwe and Mzuzu want to go online using Mpamba and Airtel money, they must be added to Mpamba or Airtel Menu. And if they all did, would TNM Mpamba or Airtel Money not become cluttered?
If I want to buy a power tool from Game, I go to a Game Store and not National Bank of Malawi. National Bank is only the banker to effect payment through a cheque or Mo626. Ideally, the Game point-of-sale system should include Mo626 option. The system should be able to invoke National Bank to make a payment on my behalf after I provide a pin.
Is that not what happens when we swipe ATM cards at point-of-sale? After all, financial institutions in Malawi are linked through Bankers Association of Malawi.
Mo626, FDH 525, NBS Easy Money, TNM Mpamba, Airtel Money are all great products but they must evolve to the next level. Currently, if you buy prepaid electricity and the token is not delivered, National Bank blames Escom while Escom faults National Bank and they waist our precious time.
If you need to subscribe to an online newspaper in Malawi, you need to make payment on these systems and prove to the newspaper company that you have. That is awkward and time consuming. Machines can to that in no time.