Hotel & Restaurant closes after 80 years

Hotel & Restaurant closes after 80 years
October 7, 2015 Thabo

After 80 years, Hotel & Restaurant is closing. The final printed issue of the magazine is October 2015, out later this week, and the website will no longer be updated after Wednesday, 30 September. Promotional mailers will continue to be emailed throughout October.

It is a very sad day for management, staff members and contributors, past and present. The decision to close the brand was taken after various business models were investigated by current publishers, RamsayMedia, which is wholly owned by Caxton. Outgoing team members editor Susan Reynard and advertising sales executive Karen Prumm, plus the entire shared services teams in the art department, digital support, subscriptions and related services at RamsayMedia and Caxton, plus group publisher Neil Piper, thank our readers in the hospitality and tourism industries, and our loyal advertisers of products and services for their support.

Andrew Moth, long-time editor of Hotel & Restaurant who retired in October 2014, shares his thoughts below, in the manner of his much-read and highly respected Opinion page:

The news that Hotel & Restaurant is to close as a print magazine and website is disappointing but not really a surprise, says Andrew Moth, who was editor of the magazine from 1986 to 2014. “Over the past 10 years or so specialist and business-to-business magazines like Hotel & Restaurant which rely almost exclusively on the sale of space to generate income and cover ever-increasing paper, production, distribution and administration costs have been coming under increasing pressure.

This pressure has been made worse by the decline in the value of South Africa’s currency, the unreliability of the electricity supply and of course frequent and unpredictable disruptions to the postal service. Everyone with insight to publishing will know that nothing upsets readers as much as not receiving their favorite magazine on the date on which they normally expect it.

And much the same applies to advertisers who pay a lot of money to distribute important product information to potential customers in the hotel, restaurant, conference and allied industries.

These suppliers have also been hit hard by the failure of the South African economy to grow. Tourism should be the fastest growing industry in South Africa but it is hamstrung by stupidity at the top levels of government and general incompetence in the civil service. Although South Africa offers a business and leisure tourism experience which is among the best in the world, travelers find it difficult to get here because of red tape over visas.

South Africa is a long-haul destination but policy makers must get out of the way and allow tourism professionals to make it easy to fly here and do business or have a holiday.

This is not the place to harp on again about crime and grime, because everyone in the tourism industry sees the problems everyday, but only last week the Spur restaurant just 50-metres from the longtime head office in Pinelands of Hotel & Restaurant was raided by armed robbers.

South Africa and Africa in general are tough places in which to do business but with some real effort by the forces of law and order, investors would soon develop confidence in the future,” Moth said. “There is also too much red tape everywhere. Poor levels of education, poverty, the trade unions and general corruption and incompetence make it difficult for business people to invest and develop with an eye on the future.

The history of Hotel & Restaurant can be traced back 80 years. As a monthly magazine in the stable of magazines owned and published by Ramsay Son & Parker, it enjoyed its most profitable times in the 1980s. Under the editorship of Bruce Heilbuth in the early 1980s and then Moth for 28 years it was the voice of the rapidly changing and growing hospitality industry. With Harold Eedes as publisher the magazine – then known as Hotelier & Caterer – thrived, regularly publishing issues packed with news, views and information for and about an industry developing and thriving.

It enjoyed a close association with FEDHASA, a powerful employer association which represented the needs of the hospitality and drives industries and was able to influence policy and thinking at all three levels of government. Selling space to advertisers keen to reach businesses in the hospitality industry was fairly simple: With Buyers Guide and Alcoholic Beverage Review, Hotelier & Caterer and Hotel & Restaurant were indispensable tools offering a guaranteed audience of keen buyers for any product or service that could be used in a hotel, restaurant, conference centre or licensed club.

About 15 years ago the magazine changed its name to Hotel & Restaurant to better reflect the growth of the restaurant industry in South Africa. Then came the internet and websites. “This clearly had an impact on the profitability of the print magazine, but this was alleviated by income from marketing campaigns conducted through the website for suppliers who wanted quick access to the audience served by Hotel & Restaurant.

Moth says he could see the writing on the wall then but “we were determined to continue serving the industry we loved even though advertising volumes and profitability declined for all print publications.

Our readers were fiercely loyal. They liked the website but they loved the magazine. They liked the feel of a product in their hands but it is a simple fact that publishing Hotel & Restaurant is no longer commercially viable.

When Moth retired last year, Susan Reynard, who had been Gauteng editor of the magazine since May 2001, took over the reins as editor of both the magazine and website as various plans were explored by the giant Caxton publishing and printing business to ensure the future of Hotel & Restaurant. In the current business environment, it however has become clear that Hotel & Restaurant is not sustainable and the October print issue will be the last to be distributed. The Hotel & Restaurant website will also close and the brand will become a memory.

Moth said: “Susan Reynard did a great job for Hotel & Restaurant in her year as editor but she was fighting a battle that was probably impossible to win – even in a better business environment. Print publications all over the world are enduing hard times. Hotel & Restaurant is not the first great magazine to close and it will not be the last.” For any queries related to the closure of the brand, please call group publisher Neil Piper in Cape Town on 021 530 3100 or email: Neil@ramsaymedia.co.za.