Local, as South Africans know, is lekker. More than just lekker though, the choice to support local when it comes to business has far-reaching positive effects for the bottom line, the community and the economy at large.
The approach taken by Latitude Aparthotels is one that opts to source local – from art and design, to meat and fish – as far as possible.
“It’s about recreating an age-old sense of community, but also about offering our guests the most authentic experience possible, which is a local one,” explains Lesego Majatladi, Managing Director at Latitude Aparthotels, the first of which opened in Sea Point, Cape Town, in November 2019.
A commitment to supporting local is particularly important in light of the current lockdown and the far-reaching economic impact it is certain to have. “We believe that in the coming months and years, it is going to be more essential than ever to support local businesses wherever we can to ensure their survival and, by implication, protect as many local jobs and communities as possible,” Majatladi says.
Reassurance of the relevance of this approach happens all the time. “Not a week goes by (during normal operating times) that a guest doesn’t comment on the uniqueness of the art on the walls, or the distinctive interiors, or enquires about where they can buy similar ornaments to take home with them,” Majatladi notes. In this regard Latitude has built relationships with a number of key suppliers, which they are exceptionally happy with. “We don’t have fancy, complex contracts with our suppliers because we’ve opted to nurture relationships of trust with them instead, and the experience has been nothing but pleasant so far,” Majatladi says.
Opting for the local route is a way that allows Latitude to create opportunities for smaller suppliers to showcase their products and services on a larger scale than they might otherwise have been able to. “The nature of a hotel is such that a lot of people pass through the space, which means the goods of a service provider can be experienced by many,” Majatladi reveals. Underpinning Latitude’s approach is the question around what they can do to help the smaller players increase their capacity.
It’s about working with people who are passionate about what they do and are motivated to excel at it. “It’s the butcher who has a vested interest in where the meat comes from, that understands how each cut is best used,“ Majatladi explains. What’s more, sourcing local has not been as difficult as they once imagined it might be. “We have people right here in our community who can supply everything we need to offer our guests a world-class experience, albeit in a uniquely South African way,” Majatladi shares.
He adds that all too often when people speak of world-class they are not speaking of Sea Point or Cape Town or South Africa. “We believe, and have been able to demonstrate, that we have world-class right here.”
The COVID-19 lockdown has disrupted supply chains across all sectors and we’re likely to see a subtle but significant shift in our approach to sourcing local. “It may well become a necessity to source locally, a move that has the potential tostimulate the local economy in new and unexpected ways,” Majatladi says.
And doing so provides ordinary South Africans with the chance to contribute meaningfully to the country’s economic resurgence. Perhaps more importantly, however, it is a chance to play a role in reducing inequality. If South Africans buy more local goods, manufacturers will have more capacity to hire skilled workers. And, where those skills don’t exist, they will be incentivised to provide training, resulting in more people in higher-paying jobs. This adds value across the chain and doesn’t just include economic benefits, but will also go a long way towards creating a more socially cohesive, united country.
“Beyond the Rands and Cents of it, we see great value in supporting the community. We will always source locally until it is not feasible to do so and, so far it’s been an organic process. We haven’t had to go out in search of suppliers with a checklist to verify the authenticity of their local-ness. It’s simply been about seeking out a community of people who share the brand’s ethos and our commitment to offering guests the best possible experience,” Majatladi says.
“For us, there’s been nothing but value in supporting the local to work across the hospitality sector in the country. If we want to make an economic impact, it makes sense to start by supporting local businesses,” Majatladi believes.