Business has plunged at most Auckland restaurants as the Rugby World Cup sweeps away their customers.

Extra staff brought on for the predicted boom have been left with nothing to do, and redecorated spaces are sitting empty.

A Restaurant Association survey found the majority of businesses had fared worse because of the tournament - and Paymark revealed yesterday that even eftpos spending had slowed.

"It's not just down - it's shocking," said Rick Littlewood, owner of the Kura and Tanuki bars on Queen St.

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"We're down 50 per cent at all our businesses. We've closed one of our sake bars on Saturday nights.

"It's just not worthwhile opening - you have to pay staff to stand around looking at each other... It was like they had sent everybody off to the countryside."

Customers usually arrived in three waves during the evening - the first at 6pm and the last toward midnight - but now it was one and done, Mr Littlewood said.

"It's bad, bad news for us - it's our money. This is the worst we've had in 16 years of business."

Auckland's restaurant of the year, the Grove, has remained busy for dinners but lunchtime patronage has dropped.

Owner Michael Dearth said businesspeople usually went to the restaurant on weekdays for corporate lunches.

"Maybe businesspeople just aren't entertaining right now, or they're doing group functions with corporate boxes or going to different venues like the Cloud," he said.

The cup tournament opening night had been particularly bad.

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"On the Monday before, we had a huge spike in business. You could tell people were coming into town. I was like, 'Wow, here we go. This is the Rugby World Cup'. Like anyone, I went to make sure we had enough staff and really nice wine."

But on the Friday opening night the crowds flocked to the waterfront - leaving the Grove with few customers and too many staff.

"I don't know why I didn't think of that. It was history in the making," Mr Dearth said.

As a consolation, a crowd of party-goers had drunk the restaurant out of beer in about an hour, and later in the tournament international visitors had bought vintage wines priced up to $2400.

The owner of the El Faro Spanish Tapas bar in the Elliott Stables, Mark Ansley, said the whole industry was talking about the tournament having a detrimental effect.

"I've spoken to people at the Wynyard Quarter, the Viaduct, people in the CBD; I've spoken to a lot of restaurateurs to gauge what's happening - and everyone's saying it's down big-time," Mr Ansley said.

"I'm sure we would be busier if the World Cup wasn't on."

But businesses should have known what was coming, Mr Ansley said.

"Anyone who was sucked into the hype is an idiot. The council wants to make its books look better so it was always going to funnel all the customers into the fan zone it set up."

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said she felt bad for the restaurants who had renovated in anticipation of the tournament.

"People have spent a lot of money for something that might never happen," Ms Bidois said.

But there was still the second half of the tournament to come, and a few businesses had done "astronomically" well out of the World Cup.

Restaurants near the waterfront fan zone, Eden Park and along the fan trail had fared better than the rest, she said.

A survey by the association found 52 per cent of more than 400 restaurants had a drop in sales during the World Cup, and 22 per cent saw no change.

A follow-up survey now being done was showing similar results - less than a quarter of restaurants have enjoyed more business than usual.

Spending on credit cards and eftpos through Paymark grew 3.4 per cent against last September, a rate lower than the first eight months of the year.

The slowdown came despite an almost 30 per cent rise in foreign credit card spending.