A food business specialising in hāngī cooking and co-owned by Eat Well for Less TV host Ganesh Raj has been placed into liquidation.
The Māori Kitchen, which previously had a pop-up container shop in downtown Auckland which later moved to the food court in Northwest Shopping Centre, was placed into liquidation by its two shareholders on May 28.
Derek Ah Sam and Paul Vlasic of Rodgers Reidy Chartered Accountants were appointed liquidators.
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According to the liquidators' first report, the company was placed into liquidation due to difficult trading conditions. The liquidators are now looking to find a buyer for the business, which was incorporated in December 2018.
The directors of the business had advised liquidators that there was no money outstanding to the company, the report outlined.
The business has four trade creditors - Mt Roskill Cash'NCarry Ltd, Flexigroup Ltd, Silver Chef Rentals Ltd and Smartpay Rental Services Ltd. It is not known how much is owed.
The liquidators have been contacted for comment.
Liquidators are seeking creditor claims by July 17. According to the report, there are no preferential claims.
"We estimate that there will be no funds available for unsecured creditors. However, recovery actions through insolvent transactions and actions against certain other parties may bring in additional funds," liquidator Paul Vlasic said in the report.
The Māori Kitchen, specialising in traditional Māori underground cooking, selling hāngī tuturu, burgers, wraps, fry bread and mussel fritters, is co-owned by Ganesh Raj and David "Rewi" Spraggon.
Raj stars in TVNZ's Eat Well for Less TV programme and owns upmarket eatery The Tasting Shed in Kumeu.
Spraggon, a Māori TV chef and master carver, said the Māori Kitchen had been directly impacted by construction work in downtown Auckland and the Covid-19 crisis. The business was forced to relocate to Westgate as pedestrians could not cross the road in downtown Auckland to access the shop due to construction roads works, which had a material impact on the business' revenue, he said.
Revenue first started to drop between December and January, Spraggon said.
"We'd been going for over a year, and tried our best, but we had a whole lot of road blocks in our way for a whole lot of reasons. The CBD upgrading, and everything else.
"Half the cruise ships that came in were a quarter empty so obviously the world got the message before us on Covid; those ships were coming in a quarter to half full and we saw a big drop in business that way."
The Māori Kitchen was not the only business to have struggled during the crisis, other semi-permanent food operators in Queens Wharf had since closed, Spraggon said.
"All of those little businesses on Queens Wharf are not there anymore, it's pretty sad."
Spraggon will now focus on his hāngī catering company Hāngi Master. He hopes to revisit The Māori Kitchen in the future.
The Māori Kitchen was one of New Zealand's only commercial hāngī restaurants and had 10 staff before it was placed into liquidation. It had a hāngī pit in Queens Wharf.
The America's Cup could be another opportunity to carry on a commercial hāngī food business, Spraggon said.
"Hāngī is the oldest dish in New Zealand and we're not going to stop here - it needs to be in the cuisine in New Zealand and so that's not going to stop as long as I'm around."
In a statement, Raj said Māori Kitchen was another casualty of Covid-19.
"The Māori Kitchen is one of the casualties of the pandemic and was unable to continue and the difficult decision was made to voluntarily liquidate the business. As much as I had hoped to support Rewi with his dream of bringing hāngī to a mainstream customer base, I am devastated that The Māori Kitchen could not fight against factors that were out of our control," Raj said.
"Hospitality businesses open and close every week during normal times, let alone under the pressure of a global lockdown. Right now, a lot of small NZ businesses are in the same boat, particularly in hospitality."