GOLOCAL

Fine dining in takeaway boxes, cafes taking on dinner deliveries, and "ghost kitchens" are some of the survival tactics Tauranga's hospitality sector is trialling to reconnect with customers in a contactless level 3 world.

The move from Covid-19 lockdown to level 3 has allowed many more CBD businesses to begin trading again in a world many of them say is "completely different" to before.

As many businesses introduce limited takeaway menus and contactless pick-up and delivery systems, they are asking locals for support now more than ever.

Mainstreet Spokesperson Sally Cooke. Photo / File
Mainstreet Spokesperson Sally Cooke. Photo / File

Mainstreet spokeswoman Sally Cooke said the CBD "can't wait to get going".

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"Critical to the resurgence of our city centre and, for that matter, our SME sector is the ability of our businesses to evolve, adapt and get trading again as quickly and safely as possible."

Cooke said it has been a busy time for many businesses getting ready for click and collect and contactless pick-up and delivery options.

"It is incredible to watch the Kiwi grit and determination to meet any challenge head-on and be innovative in problem-solving.

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"We have cafes developing new product offerings, restaurants developing new collaborative partnerships and they're mastering all this and ensuring they have stringent health and safety measures in place to keep people safe – their teams and customers."

But Cooke said the CBD needed support as many stores begin to work under online ordering systems in level 3.

"With some stores still unable to open viably during level 3 we still have a long way to go.

"It's been and continues to be an extremely challenging and stressful time for our business community.

"Now, more than ever, we need people to think about their favourite cafes, bars, restaurants and shops and to actively get behind them with support. Buy local and help our business owners get some cashflow going again."

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Craig and Kira Soeberg from Alimento Cafe have introduced a new dinner delivery system in level 3. Photo / Supplied
Craig and Kira Soeberg from Alimento Cafe have introduced a new dinner delivery system in level 3. Photo / Supplied

Alimento cafe owner Craig Soeberg said the cafe was introducing evening delivery in level 3 and was now open until 8pm, which was new.

"We are trying to manage in a different market. We haven't done this before. Normally we shut at 4pm."

Soeberg said it was nice to see his regular customers back after opening for the first time since lockdown.

"Being in hospitality we have a rapport with our regulars and it is nice to be able to see them again."

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

He said it was important for people to be spending locally.

"We need them now more than ever, especially in the CBD. The city is going through so much transformation at the moment.

"It is about jobs. The last thing we want is for people to lose jobs."

His first thought in lockdown was to protect his employees and avoid being in the position of making anyone redundant.

"It [Covid-19] has hurt the cashflow of the business but we are lucky our landlord has helped us with a 50 per cent reduction in rent."

The Government subsidy has also helped to be able to keep his staff employed and connected.

Kim Smythe and Noel Cimadom from Clarence Bistro will be delivering takeaways in level 3. Photo / George Novak
Kim Smythe and Noel Cimadom from Clarence Bistro will be delivering takeaways in level 3. Photo / George Novak

Clarence Bistro Hotel owner Noel Cimadom said the fine dining restaurant was now doing takeaways for people to "dine like a king in your own castle".

"For us, it is a completely new world," he said.

Cimadom said it was challenging turning a typical three-course dining experience into a takeaway service.

"As soon as you put it in a takeaway box it is not what it was meant to be."

But he wanted people to still be able to dine like kings and queens at home.

"The feedback has been fantastic. Everybody wants to be able to treat themselves."

Jessica Rafferty, owner of Crown & Badger, has introduced a "ghost kitchen" where people can order anything from poutine fries and chicken wings from Smokey Joes and pasta and pizzas from The Italian Job to their favourite pub grub at Crown & Badger and have it made and delivered from the same kitchen on The Strand.

"It is an opportunity for us to showcase our food," Rafferty said.

"It gives people the opportunity for people to order a bigger range of food from one location."

The concept is based on a model overseas and Rafferty believed it was the future of hospitality as the country moves down the alert levels.

"Covid-19 has pushed us to think differently."

Rafferty said people should support local business now more than ever. "It is beyond important."

The Med Cafe owner Jo Brown, who has been operating in the CBD for about 16 years, said she was happy to be able to see her customers again after five weeks in lockdown.

Brown said she had reduced her menu down by about 80 per cent to operate in level 3 but the biggest difference about operating in the lowered alert level was the doors were shut.

However, Brown said she was pleasantly surprised to see how busy the cafe was on day one of level 3.

"I could see them smiling and I heard them yelling thank you," she said. "They are wanting me to survive this."

The future remained uncertain, but Brown said she was trying to stay positive.

"I am alive, I am open and I have customers."

Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty regional manager Alan Sciascia. Photo / File
Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty regional manager Alan Sciascia. Photo / File

Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty regional manager Alan Sciascia said it was "absolutely essential" for all businesses to open as soon as possible.

"Being without customers for 5-plus weeks puts a lot of pressure on businesses and business owners.

"However, some businesses can't easily convert to meet and comply with the restrictions so must wait until level 2."

But Sciascia said operating in level 3 was "very different".

"Customers cannot enter the premises and must leave after collecting their purchase. So it's very different for the customer - no social activity - and very different for the business
- much-reduced income.

He said it was more important than ever to support local businesses because they "employ local people, buy local products and rely on local customers to survive".