Sushi chain St Pierre's has gone from in-store sales to online ordering and "valet pick-up", adapting its business to be able to trade during alert level 3 lockdown.
The 90-store retail chain currently has 19 of its stores open across the country and next week will have approximately 39 open for contactless trade.
St Pierre's director and co-founder Nick Katsoulis, who founded the business - which started out as a seafood delicatessen in Wellington in the 1980s - with his two brothers, said the company was now using its online ordering platform that was previously used for only catering to operate inline with Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
The company is currently allowing orders through its website and is in the process of developing its own app, and plans to sign up to UberEats for home delivery.
In keeping with the Covid-19 health and safety guidelines, tables barricade the doors of its stores to ensure two metres distance between the staff and customer, with orders pushed across table..
The sushi chain no longer pre-makes its sushi, it is all made to order.
"Valet pick-up" inspired by a similar concept of "curb-side" pick up originating in the United States had proven popular with St Pierre's customers, Katsoulis said, whereby a customer calls the store as they pull up to the outlet and their order is placed onto their car bonnet by a staff member.
Katsoulis said the "logistics of operating" the stores was completely different to prior to lockdown and was a challenge. "We might have 200 people who want their sushi at 12 o'clock, for example, from one store, and that makes it a nightmare sorting out who is who when they arrive," he said, adding that the chain was looking at developing its online system to regulate pick-up times.
The chain spent about two years developing its online ordering system, it is being adapted to make the process more efficient for the 30 per cent of its stores it plans to have open during Alert level 3 lockdown.
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"What we want to do online is create the exact experience that a customer would have if they walked in and talked to one of our staff, which means customisation," he said, adding that there was previously no need for it prior to Covid-19.
"Our whole model has been thrown in the air, and there's been this need to rethink it."
Katsoulis had always been reluctant to launch delivery as he for a long time believed "good food doesn't travel". The affects of Covid-19 had made him rethink this, he said.
"Delivery is a huge request that we have kind of resisted."
The uptake in orders since opening on Tuesday had been more than it had expected, and the suburban stores had been the busiest since; trading at about 50 per cent of pre-Covid revenue levels, while city centre-based stores were trading at about 10 per cent capacity, Katsoulis said.
St Pierre's would not open all of its stores under level 3 lockdown as it does not want to cannibalise business at stores within the same areas, he said.
"St Pierre's has been around 35 years; we've been through the sharemarket crash in '87, the Global Financial Crisis, the toxic algae bloom - where people didn't want to eat seafood for two years," Katsoulis said.
The impact from Covid-19 had been the biggest by far, he said. The company had lost "millions" of dollars worth of trade.
Katsoulis anticipates it will take about one year for St Pierre's to return to 90 per cent of pre-Covid 19 trading levels. The business would monitor how it trades over the next few months before deciding on if it needs to seek any investment, he said.
St Pierre's has about 700 staff across its store network and Katsoulis said it had not had to lay off any staff due to the wage subsidy scheme.
The Ministry of Social Development's wage subsidy search shows St Pierre's International Limited - its head office - has accessed $170,080.80 for 25 staff. Each St Pierre's stores is its own entity so it is not known how much the chain has collectively received for its 700 staff as these are a mix of full time and part time employees.
Construction work building St Pierre's had first drive-thru store in Onehunga has been put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This is now expected to open early next year.