Water cuts adversely affecting franchising and small businesses

Although not anywhere near the frequency when load-shedding was in full force, power and especially water cuts have become more and more frequent in the past few months as the drought sets in and infrastructure problems persist.  Even small outages and water cuts can have disastrous effects on unprepared businesses and the Franchise Association of South Africa (FASA) is concerned at the impact that water shortages and cuts is having on its over 700 franchise systems and their over 35 000 franchise outlets.
  • In Ehurhuleni, where water rationing has been implemented, there have been regular water cuts between 9 pm at night and 5am in the morning.  Whilst this on the surface seems logical, this can have an adverse impact on the restaurant and fast food industry, for example, that trades late at night.  This could result in businesses having to close earlier to complete their entire hygiene cleaning procedures before 9pm at night – a move that will lose them valuable revenue and inconvenience their customers.
  • On Sunday 30th October, the Mall of Africa, for example, had no water due to the reservoir in the area having insufficient water supply.  Many of the restaurants and coffee shops like Starbucks, although open could not sell most of their products – the impact of incidents like these on small businesses is disastrous.
  • In Tshwane, restrictions have apparently been imposed without notice, particularly affecting residents and businesses in the east and west of the city and other parts of the capital.  With no water storage facilities, how must businesses adequately prepare for sudden water cuts?
“Where most small businesses and many franchise groups have built in the cost of generators some years ago when load-shedding was at its worst, water cuts present their own unique challenges, especially for those in the food industry” says Vera Valasis, Executive Director of FASA. “Many of these cuts happen without any notice which goes against government regulations which prescribe a four-day notice period before water shedding is implemented by municipalities.”

“The financial impacts of even a small water cut can be catastrophic. Especially for the small business owner, it’s even trickier to provide good customer service, maintain hygiene levels and stick to production timings when you have less water at your disposal.  We appeal to municipalities to work with business to give enough notice of water and electricity cuts so that a contingency plan can be implemented.”

In the spirit of working together, franchise brands and insurance companies like Santam have come up with some water-wise tips for residents and small businesses to follow:
  • We need to all adopt a culture of water saving – whether it’s making a conscious effort personally to shorten shower time, using grey water or installing a rain-capture system for garden use.
  • In the business environment, make water saving a priority – make employees aware and engage their active co-operation – motivate them to avoid waste on an every-day basis and encourage them to report leaks. Appoint a water-saving champion and put up constant reminders and reward water-saving behaviour.
  • Get a water audit to see how efficient your water usage is. Take an analytical look at your company’s water consumption and identify areas that need improvement. Scrutinise water bills and take note of sharp spikes – not only could you be overcharged but you might have a leak.
  • Be aware of sharp spikes that could mean there is a leak. Know where your supply pipes run and where the shut off valves are. Check your meters at night or when they are not in use to monitor leakage.
  • Be vigilant about leaks and immediately fix pipes, taps, appliances and equipment that might be faulty– a slow drip wastes an enormous amount of water and can also send your water bill sky-high.
  • Purchase water-efficient equipment and install low-flow restrictors, which output less water than standard valves and always use the water efficient settings for appliances such as dishwashers. If there is any water that can be saved during the production process, consider using it to wash floors or water plants.
  • When washing floors, machinery or vehicles remind cleaning staff to use hose water sparingly and make sure hoses have automatic switch-off valves so as to not waste water unnecessarily. A hosepipe can spew as much as 18 liters of water a minute! Where possible, use a broom for scrubbing, not a hosepipe.
  • Show both your staff and your customers that you are ‘water wise’ - display water-saving policies in kitchens and staff rooms and remind customers, both as part of a promotional campaign and in restrooms that you are doing your bit to save water.
FASA commends many of its members who are being pro-active in working with their franchisees to introduce water-saving initiatives – from those in the food industry who have opted for pressurised coffee machines to water-wise baseline dishwashers that only require water changes four times a day – to those cutting back on the amount of water used by installing automatic sensor taps in salons and restrooms.  Kudus to Pick n Pay who, as part of their School Club initiative, have partnered with Water Wise to produce and distribute free of charge a Waterwise book to educate children on the importance of saving water.

“The franchise sector in South Africa,” concludes Vera Valasis, “has always rallied in the face of adversity and confronted challenges head-on. They remain the backbone of the small business sector and everything must be done – both by the private sector, municipalities and government – to ensure that the wheels of our economy are not derailed by these challenges.”