The Business that Built a Restaurant during the Pandemic Lockdown

When Sean Barber, owner of the Rockets Life franchise, heard that the country would be placed under a hard lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic arriving and spreading in South Africa, he was disoriented and shocked, as was the rest of the nation.

Apart from the strain of having to close 12 business outlets for what turned out to be more than four months of hard lockdown, Sean was in the midst of building a brand new Rockets branch in Menlyn when the tough regulations were announced. Despite the barrage of challenges that seemed to stand in the way, Sean and his team soldiered on and have miraculously completed the construction and refurbishment of the Rockets Menlyn restaurant, now located on the rooftop of Time Square Casino.

More than just another restaurant – It’s a lifestyle

When asked how he managed to keep his businesses afloat, without having to sacrifice any of his store or outlets, Sean attributes this success to three critical factors:

  1. First, Sean has historically nurtured positive relationships with his landlords and was able to come to reasonable arrangements, while still maintaining the capacity to float direct costs, such as business utility bills.
  2. Sean was fortunate enough to find himself with sufficient capital to look after his workforce, while they were unable to work. For the Rockets group, this meant launching a voucher program to keep their crew fed – a program that amounted to R 84 000 every two weeks.
  3. Finally, Sean possessed the keen business sense to recognize that it would take immense capital to reopen the shop when lockdown was finally lifted. As an example, up to R 500 000 had to be set aside to re-stock and successfully reopen Rockets Bryanston alone. A similar arrangement would be needed for the Rockets Menlyn launch in October 2020.

Summarizing his advice for businesses facing a crisis, such as the COVID-19 lockdown, Sean urges company owners and managers to foster good relationships with suppliers and partners, look after employees, and set aside as much capital as possible to forge ahead with “business as usual.”

What can patrons expect from the new Pretoria-based Rockets restaurant?

Mirroring Rockets Bryanston on design and décor, the 1500-square-meter new restaurant incorporates the fusion of contrasting elements such as raw industrial materials, indoor forestry, striking visual art, and sleek finishes. Overlooking Menlyn to the West, the rooftop restaurant enjoys unrivalled views of highveld sunsets and dazzling city lights all around.

While the award-winning Rockets restaurant in Bryanston offers a multi-storey, multi-theme banqueting experience for diners, the new rooftop Rockets in Menlyn occupies one capacious space, with the ability to divide areas for private events and parties.

The new Rockets in Menlyn also indulges its patrons with a contemporary champagne bar, a sumptuous open lounge, the highly exclusive “Volt” area, and a seated restaurant area for premium dining, whether breakfast, lunch, dinner or late-night drinks. Much like its sister-branch in Bryanston, Rockets Menlyn serves a fusion-based menu, created by Cyprus-born Group Executive Chef, Mark Alexandru, and executed to perfection by Head Chef Jason Kirk.



In the upcoming months, following the establishment’s launch, Rockets Menlyn patrons can look forward to plenty of entertainment and dining extravaganzas, including a Halloween dinner (at both Menlyn and Bryanston) and weekly summertime Sunday rooftop parties with live entertainment. As is the Rockets tradition, South Africa’s top DJ’s will fill the air with music from Thursdays to Sunday, and a two-day New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day celebration will feature world-class DJ’s and musicians, from lunchtime until late.


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