Mthabisi Tshuma, Leisure Correspondent
Its lively personality impresses many and rings true to its humble beginnings which show that every great castle begins with one block.
This is the story of Benson Muneri, born in Kadoma and raised in Bulawayo, an actor in tourism and hospitality.
At 42, he has shown that a small step taken every day builds hope for a bigger life that begins when you start something and flourishes when you keep doing it.
It’s the story of how three fast food restaurants across the country under the Barcelos banner spawned 16 Hotplate Grillhouse branches.
Restaurants are a testament to how the power is in the roots, not in the branches.
This rings the adage that success usually comes to those who are too busy to seek it.
Born in the mining town of Kadoma to a father who worked for the Cold Storage Commission (CSC) (now Cold Storage Company) and a mother who relied on the sale of cultural artifacts to put food on the table, Muneri has not had it easy.
Saturday Leisure met Muneri at the new US $ 200,000 Hotplate Grillhouse branch in Harare, which he has since donated to First Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa’s Angel of Hope Foundation to help vulnerable people.
“I was born in Kadoma and grew up in Nketa 7 in Bulawayo. I went to Rimuka High School in Kadoma and moved to Bulawayo around 1992 when my father transferred from Kadoma to Bulawayo while working for the Cold Storage Commission (CSC).
“Life was a challenge because our parents had to fight for the maintenance of a large family of six brothers and a sister and it was never easy and my mother had to sell doilies to make ends meet,” Muneri said. .
Muneri said he has persevered and pursued his dream career in the tourism industry.
“I studied for a diploma in catering and hotel management at the Bulawayo Business Training Institute (BCTI) which was located in the Zimnat building and was a very expensive private college.
“After I finished in 1996, I moved to Victoria Falls where I became the first black manager of Spur Steak Ranches, which also opened at Holiday Inn Bulawayo in Ascot, Beitbridge and Victoria Falls. That’s when it all started, I was the general manager of the three stores, ”said Muneri.
Muneri said that through his dedication, hard work and determination, Spur Steak Ranches realized he had the talent and drive to make them perform better. So they sent him to South Africa for training.
“I went to Cape Town for further training and that was around 1997. From 1999 to 2004, I worked at Nandos in Johannesburg and was the operations manager for stores in South Africa and Namibia.
“From Nandos, I worked with Woolworths from 2004 to 2006 before joining Barcelos in 2006 until 2019,” Muneri said.
“It was in Barcelos that my entrepreneurial skills were developed when I met my mentor, a Greek by the name of Costa Mazzis, who is the CEO of Barcelos.
“Mazzis is very supportive of the current deployment of Hotplate Grillhouse branches in Zimbabwe and he is the one who gave me the special franchise for the main franchise in Zimbabwe under which we operate,” said Muneri.
Having gained in-depth knowledge of the tourism and hospitality industry, Muneri said he felt the need not to abandon his roots and come back to the country.
He said the move was also made necessary by the Second Republic’s “Zimbabwe is open for business” policy.
“I came back in 2019 from South Africa to invest in Zimbabwe and it was because of the bugle call for openness led by President Mnangagwa.
“When I came back I took a leap of faith and started investing by opening three Barcelos franchise outlets,” he said.
Muneri said his love for the industry saw him realize a gap that he immediately closed.
“I realized that there was a need and a demand for an African offering of traditional dishes and so we launched this idea of Hotplate Grillhouse which now has 16 outlets in two years,” said Muneri.
A decade in South Africa made Muneri ill at home and he didn’t hesitate when an opportunity to relocate presented itself.
“Home is home and nothing beats home. I was ready to take whatever happened to me. I was ready to weather the storm knowing I was home.
“I had gained experience overseas and it was time to deploy it at home,” Muneri said.
Muneri’s return created jobs for 350 people.
“I am excited about job creation and I am a young man keen to learn more. We take one client at a time and we’ll master the game and pick it up as we go.
“We are not the best, but we are ready to be the best in the future,” said Muneri.
Regarding his donation of the new Hotplate Grillhouse outlet, Muneri said the establishment is all it is thanks to the customers it is indebted to.
“It was an honor for President Mnangagwa to ask me if he could come and officiate at the opening of the Hotplate Grillhouse which was donated to the Angel of Hope Foundation. It is a 90 seater and has staff cabins on its premises and was set up with a budget of US $ 200,000.
“We are touched by the actions of the First Citizen and we support his office and respect his existence. We also appreciate her support with Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa of the Angel of Hope Foundation who is the beneficiary of the restaurant.
“One brick at a time, we are trying to unite the nation. We have in the past been involved in projects like the Danhiko project, the Dunhudzo project. We want to make a difference and add value. I want to help people improve their lifestyle, ”Muneri said.
On his approach to being a businessman and a family, Muneri said:
“I am a businessman, I maneuver, I work and I know what children need to survive.
“As already said, we appreciate ED for leveling the playing field and if anything, this store was offered by the customers themselves,” Muneri said. – @mthabisi_mthire