The SA restaurants at the top of the heap for paying diners

The SA restaurants at the top of the heap for paying diners
Modern Tailors in Rosebank, Johannesburg. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

We all know which restaurants are lavished with awards, but where are South African diners spending their money? Telling trends were observed in the data of a key survey.

Three Johannesburg restaurants were in the top five most-booked restaurants through DinePlan in 2023. Top choice of SA diners was JoyJozi in Johannesburg, while no fewer than four of the Chefs Warehouse family were in the top 10.

In the top five, in order, were JoyJozi in Dunkeld (marketed as “a place where kids can take their adults”), Chefs Warehouse Tintswalo, Chefs Warehouse at Maison (Franschhoek), Rosetta’s Bistro (Emperors Palace, Kempton Park) and Modern Tailors (Rosebank, Joburg). The remainder in the top 10 were Bodega Ramen (Cape Town CBD), NV-80 (Sea Point, serving steak and fish grills), Chefs Warehouse Beau Constantia, Chefs Warehouse at The Bailey, and The Nines, part of the Kove Collection in Sea Point.

On the basis of this measure, and if these trends continue, Chefs Warehouse supremo Liam Tomlin is the most successful restaurateur in the country.

Consumer finances might be under pressure but they’re still going out and spending in restaurants. A key report shows that almost a third more guests ate out in restaurants in 2023 over the previous year. Restaurateurs welcomed 22.6 million guests to their establishments in 2023 through the Dineplan reservation platform, despite a difficult economic climate in the country and suppressed disposable income.

That’s a significant rise on the previous year, when 17.8 million diners  booked on Dineplan at restaurants across the country.

Dineplan, a specialist restaurant reservation management software provider, is a leading restaurant reservation platform. It also offers a mobile app, with over 500,000 diners signed up to book tables online, read and share reviews, and browse restaurant menus.

Its LinkedIn profile explains: “We get how restaurants work because we’ve helped thousands of them. We relate to clients’ challenges and demystify the technicalities of our platform so that we can provide value as quickly as possible.”

Their latest Trends Report shows a significant jump in dining out over the past year, with 27% more guests opting to eat out than in 2022 — despite the cost of living crisis, and rising food and fuel prices.

Dineplan says its data might not include every restaurant in South Africa but with more than 2,000 restaurants (ranging from fine dining and casual eateries to wine farms, culinary experiences and events) signed up to using its reservation software, the data provides a snapshot of the industry as a whole. 

The 2024 Trends Report, Dineplan founder Greg Whitfield says, shows on average, each restaurant served 3% more guests in 2023 compared to 2022. “These results are encouraging, especially when one considers that 2023 was a year marred by financial challenges for both consumers and businesses alike, as we contended with rising food and fuel prices, inflation, and record-level load shedding.”

Here are the four key trends observed in the data:

  1. Online bookings preferred: Diners are starting to prefer booking via an online channel, rather than calling. Online bookings were up by 9.3% compared to 2022, while telephone bookings were down by 7.5%, with the Dineplan reservation app seeing a 50% surge in both users and bookings throughout the year. What this indicates, Whitfield says, is that diners are increasingly opting for booking channels that make the reservation process faster and more convenient, so if restaurant owners don’t offer them, they could lose bookings.
  2. Advance planning: On average, reservations were made eight days in advance, with Thursdays at noon being the most popular time for making bookings, while 6pm on Fridays was the preferred time for dining out. The average table size was between six and eight covers. Knowing when to expect guests helps restaurateurs adjust their marketing efforts, plan their menus, schedule their staff more efficiently, and better manage their inventory.
  3. Reviews can make your business: In 2023, Dineplan processed 25,000 public reviews per month, which was a 15% increase in the number of diners leaving reviews compared to 2022. The average review score was 4.4 out of 5 stars. Regionally, Western Cape restaurants averaged at 4.49 stars, followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 4.38 and Gauteng with 4.37. On Tuesdays, diners seem to be in the best mood too, giving the highest scores for ambience, food, service, and value.
  4. Pay upfront: There was a 42% increase in the volume of booking deposits in 2023 compared to 2022, as restaurants aim to keep no-shows to a minimum. With deposits and automated booking reminders in place, no-show rates are kept low, with an average of 1.6%. The industry’s accepted average no-show rate is 20% (or one in five tables).

In December 2023, Dineplan partnered with over 250 restaurants and venues across South Africa to launch restaurant vouchers. More than R500,000 worth of vouchers were bought as gifts during the festive season, with an average value of being R1,000.

“Restaurants play a critical role in the upliftment of our country both through tourism and job creation while also providing locals and tourists alike with culinary and cultural experiences as well as settings in which they can come together and socialise. We are delighted by these results and how they have continued to improve year-on-year — highlighting the resilience of our restaurants as they navigate tough operating environments and challenges, said Whitfield. 

The top 10 most-booked restaurants on Dineplan:

  1. JoyJozi – Randburg, Johannesburg
  2. Chefs Warehouse at Tintswalo Atlantic – Chapman’s Peak, Cape Town
  3. Chefs Warehouse at Maison – Franschhoek, Western Cape
  4. Rosetta’s Bistro – Kempton Park, Johannesburg
  5. Modern Tailors – Rosebank, Johannesburg
  6. Bodega Ramen – Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town
  7. NV-80 – Sea Point, Cape Town
  8. Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia – Constantia, Cape Town
  9. Chefs Warehouse at The Bailey – Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town
  10.             The Nines – Sea Point, Cape Town. DM

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • dawie_coetzee says:

    Of course the mere fact of Dineplan distorts the findings.

    All things equal, Dineplan functionality counts against my choice of restaurant. It is perhaps not a determining factor, but given two equal options I’d plump for the non-Dineplan one.

  • Mark Gory Gory says:

    We closed our once thriving establishment in 2023. No amount of marketing can make people spend their money a d being in the countryside is currently not helpful.
    Govt economy mismanagement and racist lending policies during covid also contributed to our losses.
    Sad, but South Africa for you.

  • jill jones says:

    What I found very surprising in your review about 2022 was that you made no mention of Covid and the effect it more than likely had on eating out.

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