Shosholoza for Happy Birthday

1 October 2007

If you’re celebrating your birthday at Mike’s Kitchen, don’t expect to hear “Happy Birthday”. At this restaurant chain you’ll be congratulated to the tune of Shosholoza.

This is part of the re-branding of Mike’s Kitchen, which it celebrated on Friday along with the International Marketing Council of SA (IMC), the custodians of Brand South Africa.

The folk song of migrant labourers on South Africa’s mines became something of a second national anthem after the country won the 1995 Rugby World Cup. The isiZulu word “shosholoza” means “go forward”, “make way for the next man”, or “make your road, forge ahead”.

According to the IMC, the recent history of this restaurant chain is “a living example of the branding approach of the IMC. It is truly ‘Alive with Possibility'”.

This South Africanness and the limitless possibilities that exist in the country are central themes to the re-branding of Mike’s Kitchen by managing director Judy Corney.

This has meant refurbishing the restaurant around the most important space in South African homes, the kitchen, while including elements of the dining room and lounge.

The menu has undergone a major overhaul. All non-South African items have been replaced with a variety of South African specialities such as pap tart and potjiekos.

Friday’s celebration also focused on a new programme to promote employees as shareholders – dubbed the “From Waitress/Waiter to Shareholder Joint Venture Campaign” – and its first two beneficiaries, Christinah Maseko and Muzi Mncube.

Maseko started out as a waitress before progressing to training, as well as completing a Mike’s Kitchen/Theta learnership programme. Today she works alongside her partner and fellow-shareholder, Jan Kleynhans, at Mike’s Kitchen in the Makhado Centre in Louis Trichardt.

Mncube started out as a temporary cleaner, worked his way through the kitchen, became manager and now is a shareholder and co-owner with Garth Miller in Mike’s Kitchen in Springs.

“We’re as South African as it gets and we try to promote pride as well awareness of the limitless potential of South Africa to employees and patrons,” said MD Judy Corney.

A first step in this drive was the partnership of Mike’s Kitchen with the IMC’s Brand Champion Programme, which aims to inspire national pride within organisations.

When Corney and her husband bought the franchise, there were only five restaurants in the chain – down from the 50 previously spread throughout the country.

Then her husband died and Corney had to go it alone, while fighting off an attempt to reverse the buying of the franchise and bringing up her twin daughters.

Today there are 25 Mike’s Kitchen outlets in South Africa.

“The story of Mike’s Kitchen demonstrates what real commitment can do for a company, its employees, its image and standing,” said IMC CEO Yvonne Johnston. “They are a success story in terms of how to live the brand.”

SAinfo reporter

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