"The first weekend was a tidal wave," says Mat Jorgensen, an Auckland bar owner, when asked how busy it has been after the move to alert level 1.

However, he says there isn't sunshine and rainbows on the horizon for everyone in the turbulent hospitality sector.

Restrictions on work, school, sports and gathering limits were lifted at 11.59pm on June 8 after New Zealand made the move to alert level 1.

And after being cooped up inside for more than 70 days since the country first moved to level 3 on March 23, Kiwis were keen to hit the streets again.


"It was almost scarily busy [that first weekend] and the week that's just been has been a really solid, decent week," Jorgensen told the Herald.

"Things are similar to where they left off before Covid-19 ... revenue as well, but there are increased costs."

Alasdair Dempsey, Mike Peterson and Eddie Mathews get together for a drink at Safran in Newmarket, Auckland, during alert level 2 in May. Photo / Sylvie Whinray
Alasdair Dempsey, Mike Peterson and Eddie Mathews get together for a drink at Safran in Newmarket, Auckland, during alert level 2 in May. Photo / Sylvie Whinray

Jorgensen, owner of the Ding Dong Lounge and Infinity Nightclub, says not all business owners will be experiencing the same post-lockdown lift.

Already competing with streaming sites like Netflix and people playing video games, the rise of working from home added another challenge to the mix.

Video conferencing companies like Zoom meant people could enjoy drinks together virtually, instead of in restaurants and bars, Jorgensen said.

"No one would want to do that a few months ago, it would be weird but now it's normal," he said.

It comes after the hospital sector, excluding clubs, experienced recent year-on-year sales growth up until last year.

Statistics published in October last year by the Restaurant Association of New Zealand highlighted the rise of dining out here.


Nationwide sales in the hospitality sector for the year ending March 2019 reached $11.7 billion, up 4.2 per cent on the year previous.

The restaurant and cafe sector recorded the highest individual growth of 5.1 per cent, a dollar increase over the previous year of $290 million.

And according to the association's Great Dining Out 2019 survey of around 1000 people, 45 per cent dined out one to three times a week.

The lockdown meant people were unable to dine out and Kiwis remained hesitant to socialise with others under alert levels 3 and 2.

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Statistics of how the nation shopped at our supermarkets during the lockdown and recent survey results also show a possible change of tune to staying at home.

Foodstuffs, which owns New World and Pak'nSave, and Countdown both recognised trends in people cooking from scratch and baking more in lockdown.


According to a recent survey undertaken by Foodstuffs, 33 per cent of people said they would continue to do more baking at home.

Additionally, 36 per cent said they would keep doing more scratch cooking from home.

However, now that the lockdown has ended, Kiwis appear keen to get out of their own homes for food and drink according to Google Trends statistics.

Searches for "restaurants, cafes, food, bakeries, and bars near me" on the search engine over the past five years have been steadily increasing.

They were at their highest between November 2019 and February 2020 before a dramatic drop off in March and April of this year - the Covid-19 lockdown period.

The searches started increasing again after the move to alert level 3 before skyrocketing in early May, coinciding with the move to alert level 2.


Jorgensen said he was surprised at the eagerness and the number of people heading back into his businesses so quickly.

"When I took my kids back to school on the first day I wasn't sure about it, by the third day I was wanting them there. My customers have been like that too," he said.

"During level 2, when we had those social distancing rules, people were like 'I'm not sure', but when we got to zero cases everyone was like 'party time'."