By Kuhlekonke Dladla
Tired of a regular commute to fast food restaurants during their work break, a Johannesburg couple decided to open a food truck that has grown into a café. Khanya Ngwenya and her husband, Zamani, opened Love & Light Cafe after attracting a constant crowd to their food truck that was parked on the street outside the SABC’s Henley Studio complex in Auckland Park. In the early days of the café, the couple which runs a media company, first operated from their home before deciding to buy the mobile food truck.
Providing a flavour of homemade food from their truck paid off. They now have a café at Campus Square Shopping Centre in Melville and at Wits University. Ngwenya said there were a number of challenges they had to deal with to ensure the business was a success. “The initial challenges obviously would be compliance because there is a lot of paperwork that goes into running a food business,” she said.
These included getting certificates for fire compliance and health and safety. “You also get your normal challenges that go with hiring the right staff, making sure that you have proper controls on your stock, pricing your food correctly so that you are not running at a loss,” Ngwenya said. The café was a combination of love and human connection, and Ngwenya’s favourite part was interacting with people. “You never know who you’re going to serve. We’ve met people I grew up looking up to like Baba Zakes Mda… we’ve met people we admire… some of the stars who grace our screens have come in to enjoy a meal with us. But, also, we’ve had a lot of firsts.”
Ngwenya laughingly recalled a time when a young student was setting up a first date at their café and asked her to work with his R200 budget to make him look like he was “balling”. She told Vutivi News that the right attitude was needed when starting a small business. This included being passionate, working hard, and having the conviction that you could achieve anything you set your mind to.
Also, because of the state of the economy, operating a business was “an extreme sport”. “Running a small business is very hard, but it is possible.” The couple still operates the food truck which has become a mobile extension of the brand. It caters for outside events such as football tournaments and music events. They are now planning on opening another café in KwaZulu-Natal.