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Off The Grid Restaurant: El Burro

El Burro LogoMore and more businesses around South Africa are no longer prepared to be at the mercy of Eskom’s irregular power supply. Dozens of businesses, including restaurants, are now finding alternative electricity sources so that they can continue to trade unaffected by blackouts. While many businesses plan their meetings, appointments and tasks around the load shedding schedules, they are often changed at the last minute leaving businesses in the dark – literally. spoke to Cape Town restaurant El Burro (known for their divine authentic Mexican food) about how they keep the cuisine cooking when Eskom strikes.

1.     What made El Burro decide to control their your own power source during load shedding?

Essentially we decided to protect our business. We found that we were most often scheduled into the 8pm to 10pm slots, and in that window you can do 70% of your entire day’s trade. If the situation became dire and we were to lose about five or six nights a month, that could put us out of business. We have a high staff count and rent is not cheap in the area etc. So to trade as normal, when Eskom is down, became essential to us.

2.     What power sources do you use?

We bought a 3phase petrol powered 10kva generator that allows us to run our extraction, lights, and crucial equipment. It powers roughly 60% of normal usage, but allows us to function at 98% trade.

3.     What challenges did you face when moving from general power to off the grid?

As always, capital. In an ideal world we would love to go off the grid permanently. However, to meet the usage of all our equipment it would entail an investment out of our reach. Thus, we identified the quickest and cheapest solution, and had it installed compliantly.

4.     What are the positive effects of using this kind of power resource on the business?

The advantage of petrol is that it is easily accessible and reasonably affordable to run. We managed to find a balance in the size of the unit between affordability to run (ie low consumption) and functionality.

5.     What are the negative effects of using this kind of power resource on the business? 

For us personally we would prefer a “greener” solution. Ultimately that is the only negative, that a petrol powered generator is not sustainable enough.

6.     How important is it for El Burro to be energy efficient?

We do feel that it is essential in the long run.  Again, the only thing stopping us is the capital required to go fully green.

7.     How do you currently save energy and recycle?

At the moment we have policies we can control within our financial means, like sorting and having waste recycled, power save where we can and moving over to energy efficient lighting. All cardboard, tin and glass is sorted and recycled. About 60% of lighting has been changed to LED with the rest to follow. The next big steps will be to implement heat pumps instead of geysers, and looking into, at least, moving lighting and small appliances over to solar. We’ll have to see if and when this will be viable to us.

8.     Would you recommend others try to get off the grid?

As a business, yes of course. You won’t believe the extra trade we get when every other restaurant is dark and we are up and running. They few places who have backup power do well during load shedding. From a personal perspective, the same. However, we have a long way to go in the country before alternative energy is affordable to the average person.

Find El Burro at 81 Main Road, Green Point, Cape Town. Or call them on 021 433 2364.

For Businesses Wanting to Get Off the Grid During Load Shedding:

Switching to alternative energy is an investment. It’s important to calculate how much turn over a business is losing when the power is off. Incorporating the loss into the cost of an alternative electricity source system is the best way to consider what the reality is of keeping the lights on during load shedding times. has a number of power saving options, from on-the-table solar lights to big off the grid systems. We asked resident expert Zeke Murphy about options for businesses. Zeke recommends the following:

The 24kwh is great for the average home and business. It would power the lights, PCs, and TVs in the home or small business. Considering El Burro is a restaurant, it would not be able to consistently power electric ovens but if restaurants use gas, the 24kwh solar power kit is sufficient to run the businesses, ovens and stoves excluded.

The 9kwh solar power kit would be able to run the tills and essential lights in the restaurant.

Consider, if you can afford a vehicle for your business, are you able to afford a permanent alternative power source? If you have any further questions, feel free to call 0861 661 326.

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