An website designed to inject cash into business owners' pockets during the lockdown is taking off as an alternative way to keep revenue flowing.
Save Our Special Cafes, created by a senior government official in his free time, positions itself as a "pay it forward" initiative for the hospitality industry, allowing consumers to buy vouchers from $5 to $100 to be redeemed in a future visit.
So far, more than 30 restaurants and cafes are part of the website, which launched on Tuesday. More than 20 vouchers worth about $600 have been bought until now.
David Downs, general manager of New Zealand Trade & Enterprise came up with the concept and created the website. He says the platform has the potential to enable the survival for struggling businesses during uncertain times brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, and through the subsequent shut down of all "non-essential" businesses.
"I, like lots of people, was feeling a bit helpless, particularly the other day when the Prime Minister was announcing that we were going to go into lockdown," Downs told the Herald.
"I put the website up and immediately got a flood of inquiries, and they've been coming in pretty regularly over the past two days. What I'm hoping for is firstly that people will support those companies that are on there - these are businesses that have put their hand up and said they need help.
"If everybody who normally buys a coffee or a muffin or lunch, if a couple of times a week, they jump online and buy a voucher instead ... it will help these companies stay alive."
Downs, who founded and previously ran comedy club The Classic on Queen St in Auckland, said he could relate to what these struggling business owners "who rely on the steady drip feed of customers" were going through.
"These companies are crying out. Yes, the Government is going to help with their staff, which is fantastic, but it doesn't help with their overhead costs."
In his day job, Downs, who is at home in self-isolation, works for the Government in the area of international trade, helping companies grow into new markets internationally.
He said there was clearly a demand for the platform given how many operators had been in touch about the site.
Downs dedicates his free time to the site and says he doesn't make any money out of it.
The platform also helped small operators that did not have an online presence, he said. "These are really small businesses where it's small cash flow but they really rely on it.
"Many of these little tiny businesses haven't got the sophistication to be able to do this stuff online themselves, so I've jumped in the middle for them."
Downs said an email he received from a barbershop asking to be listed on the site showed a clear need for the model to help businesses generate alternative cashflow through the lockdown.
"For most people, $5 or whatever you spend on a coffee is not a huge amount of money, many people can afford that, but for these cafes it is their lifeblood, they really rely on those steady drip feeds of income."
Andrea Strongman, owner of two 3 Beans Coffee Roasters cafes in Auckland, said one of her regular customers alerted her to the Save Our Special Cafes website, and contacted Downs to get on board.
"It's a great way to get even a little bit of income coming in for the next four weeks, and it's also helping with marketing and getting your name out there at a time where there's not a lot of hope around," Strongman said.
"It's a very small income stream, but it's better than nothing. We're all struggling, we all want to continue paying our employees; even with the government subsidies, we've still got to top up and we've still got loads of bills to pay. Anything that comes in is really helpful."
Strongman said the public had been supportive and wanted to help struggling businesses during this time.
"People realise that if they don't step up and don't help then these cafes may not be here at the end. The general response has been amazing - everybody is so willing to help."