Emirates Leisure Retail, a subsidiary of the Emirates Group which develops and operates hospitality outlets in Dubai, Singapore and Australia, is pushing further into the New Zealand market with the opening of a restaurant at Auckland Airport.
New Zealand is the fourth market Emirates Leisure Retail has entered into the past five years. The business has been operating for 10 years and runs more than 300 hospitality venues, of which around 100 are located in airports.
The independent company which has very little to do with its parent airline first launched in New Zealand with a pop-up joint in Auckland Airport in 2017, and at the end of last year opened Aroha Cafe, a permanent cafe concept it designed.
The latest outlet it has brought to the terminal is Wondertree, a popular UK family restaurant, through a partnership with the restaurant's parent group Boparan.
Emirates Leisure Retail is working on a two-level sports bar called The Vantage Bar, under construction and due to open in July or August, which will be its third site in the international terminal.
Justin Scotti, managing director of Emirates Leisure Retail, said the subsidiary would bring Australian coffee brand Hudson's Coffee to New Zealand, first with a branch at the domestic terminal, and was taking a bet on the chain to drive growth in the market.
The group is looking to grow the coffee brand outside of airports, also.
Hudson's Coffee is one of Australia's largest coffee chains with around 95 branches located across the Tasman and one in Singapore at Changi Airport.
"We're excited by the growth opportunity for the Hudson's brand in New Zealand. New Zealanders love their coffee and we think it's a really strong coffee offer," Scotti said.
"We're doing a little bit of localisation by being able to roast it locally but it is a brand that we look to expand to multiple sites.
"Part of the challenge with a brand like Wondertree, because of the sheer scale of it, getting it to work in small airports becomes financially quite difficult whereas with coffee the same investment level is not required - getting Hudson's Coffee into multiple locations and expanding it out is a lot more realistic."
Outside Hudson's Coffee, Emirates Leisure Retail wants to expand its presence into other major international airports in Christchurch and Wellington.
"I'm a little more optimistic in the short term about expansion outside of Auckland, in other airports, as they go through development phases."
There was also scope for Emirates Leisure Retail to open Wondertree restaurants in Australian and Asian airports, Scotti said.
At present there are Wondertree restaurants in London's Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport and now Auckland, which has been opened for three weeks.
Emirates Leisure Group would not share figures on how much it had invested to set up hospitality outlets in the New Zealand market but said each week it gets around 12,000 people through its local venues.
The company also runs the master franchise for coffee chain Costa and operates British cafe chain Pret A Manger in Dubai.
Scotti said it was no harder operating hospitality outlets in New Zealand compared to other markets but said challenges were around whether a venue was air-side.
"There are unique challenges you face around operating air-side such as the knife you get can't really cut a steak, and so as you are designing your menu you either have to slice your steak or have fish but giving someone a little knife without a serrated edge to cut the steak doesn't work - there's lots of challenges in airports that if you've not operated them before you've not really thought about."
Other examples included when something breaks in the kitchen and a plumber has to get the tools approved to go through security to fix it, he said.
"Running [restaurants] in airports is actually pretty challenging."
Around 60 of Emirates Leisure Group's 300 hospitality venues are operated air-side, the rest are located outside of airports.