A career in advertising taught Reggie Makhetha the power of unique differentiation. Which is why, when he left the advertising industry to open his own restaurant, he made sure it wasn’t just another “me-too” offering. “I wanted to create a different kind of restaurant. I’ve always been a very adventurous eater and I am passionate about food. Being a creative person, I have always loved art, so I came up with the idea of combining a great Soweto restaurant with an art gallery that would add something extra to our guests’ experience,” he says. Roots Restaurant and Gallery was born, opening its doors in late 2008.
A unique experience
Situated across the road from the historic Isaac Morrison High School and a stone’s throw from the Hector Peterson memorial, the restaurant offers a fantastic view and a unique township experience. The gallery showcases the artwork of emerging township artists from around the country, while the restaurant serves up dishes that put a different spin on contemporary favourites. Township sushi is just one of these. “I didn’t want to be just another ‘upmarket authentic township restaurant’. That’s been done before and I wanted to create something new that nevertheless still captures the soul of the township,” says Makhetha.
Doubling the destination
The business model ensures that Roots’ two offerings – restaurant and gallery – play off one another and ensure a ‘double destination’ status. “People who come here for the food wander into the gallery, while people interested in art who visit the gallery provide trade for the restaurant,” Makhetha explains, adding that people also spend more time in each location than they would if the venues were unrelated.
Getting the word out
Having initially marketed by word of mouth, Makhetha has recently engaged local and international tour operators in the lead-up to the 2010 Soccer World Cup. Regional and national placement in the SAB Kickstart competition secured the business R200 000 in grants, which Makhetha plans to spend upgrading the interior and kitchen, installing flatscreen TVs, so guests can watch the soccer, and extending the balcony. With vision and ambition, Makhetha epitomises a new breed of Sowetan entrepreneurs who are redefining and successfully harnessing the marketability of the township. For more information, call +27 11 930 3752 or +27 82 209 2406, or go to www.roots-soweto.co.za