The Rotorua hospitality community has been left reeling by the death of Eat Streat restaurateur John Knight.
Mr Knight, owner of the former Triple 1 Five and manager of CBK, died at home on Thursday.
Rotorua Restaurant Association president Sharon Wallace said people were in absolute shock and lost for words at the sudden loss of someone who contributed so much to hospitality in Rotorua.
Gretchen Livingstone, a long-time friend and colleague, said she had known Mr Knight for more than 30 years.
"He was an amazing man, amazing worker and an amazing father, who lived and breathed the hospitality industry - he's done a lot for hospitality in this town. He was a man of integrity and always concerned about others. He always put people before himself."
Ambrosia owner Kris Beehre worked with Mr Knight on and off from about 1998.
He said although the man, who was easily recognisable by his smile, big moustache and sense of humour, had been in hospitality most of his life an earlier army career influenced his work style.
"He was fair in all situations and treated people equally and got straight to the point - that's what was good about him. He always said yes - and then, 'right, how are we going to do this?'," he said.
"He always tried to accommodate people. He was very work orientated, trusted his staff and said as a leader you have to be both a counsellor and a boss."
Ex-publican and Hospitality New Zealand vice president Reg Hennessy said he was "shocked and saddened" to hear of Mr Knight's death.
"He was one of the driving forces in the development of Eat Streat - all the industry in Rotorua will sadly miss him."
Ponsonby Road Lounge Bar co-owner Tamati Coffey said Mr Knight was a gentleman, an active member and a great contributor to the Eat Streat collective.
"He was always patrolling the street to find out what was going on - you become a close community when you're in the same space - he will be sorely missed."
A posting on the Rotorua Hospitality Awards Facebook page yesterday said: "We have heavy hearts today as hospitality has lost a totara from the industry. Rest in peace John Knight."
He is survived by his wife, Debbie, and two children. His funeral service will be held in Rotorua on Tuesday.