When you're dining out, the quality of the air you're breathing in between bites of Tahr tartare probably isn't something you have stopped to ponder.
But when Kiwi chef Ben Bayly opened his newest restaurant Ahi - "fire" in te reo - in shopping-meets-dining precinct Commercial Bay, he found himself facing a unique challenge.
How could he have a dramatic open fire in the heart of his kitchen without smoking out the entire multi-level mall?
It's Bayly's newest offering in his string of restaurants - the executive chef of Baduzzi and The Grove opened Aosta in Arrowtown last year and The Grounds in West Auckland three years ago.
And with a menu inspired by Aotearoa's landscape as well as traditional Māori cooking techniques - think hangi paua, charcoaled crayfish, and boil-up toast - having an open fire in the kitchen was a big part of his vision.
While natural smoke is part of the ambience at Ahi, Bayly says he wanted to ensure the air stayed clean in both the kitchen and the dining room.
Enter tech company Adroit, who installed a Libelium Environment PRO data logger, making Ahi the first restaurant in NZ to get an internet-based air-quality monitoring machine.
"The whole of Commercial Bay is state of the art, but we're a small restaurant on the outside corner of the building - a lot of the airflow from the other parts of the building comes through us and escapes out through our windows. Plus we've got a showstopping fire, so it's good to know that the systems are working really well," Bayly says.
"What with Covid being an airborne virus, it's good to know the air quality is really good. And the team in the kitchen deserve good air quality. You've got to make sure your staff are thriving."
Bayly says he was "pleasantly surprised" when the machine showed how good the restaurant's air quality was. It shows a clear spike in the data when the fire is lit.
"When we see that happen, we just make sure that all our windows and doors are shut and to allow the extraction to work at its peak, and we can see it drop back to normal," he says.
"It's great to have that peace of mind."
And because the machine is near one of the restaurant's entrances, diners are naturally curious about it.
"It's been fun telling them about it," he says.
Adroit's Ulrich Frerk, a Kiwi IoT (Internet of Things) pioneer, installed Ahi's system and says that despite the huge open grill in the restaurant, the ventilation is "extremely good".
The machine measures environmental conditions according to the international air-quality index, or standard for outdoor air quality. It has sensors for any pollutants that can affect people's health, including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and particle matter.
The cost of the machine starts at about $3500 and goes up depending on the number of sensors installed.
In the eight weeks since Ahi opened, readings show the particle matter in the air inside the restaurant is very low.
The whole system is connected to an app and can be monitored anytime, even from home. And it can send alerts to any sudden change in atmosphere.
"So, for example, we could set an alert that says 'if the particle matter gets to 50 micrograms per cubic metre, send an alert to Ben, myself, and someone else to let them know that there's a problem in the restaurant at that time', which they can then go and deal with if they need to," Frerk explains.
He believes internet-connected air quality measurement will become the norm in restaurants and businesses, as it can affect the performance of staff.
"If your CO2 level is too high, or you've got any other type of pollutant, it can cause drowsiness and sleepiness, as well as other serious health effects."
It's also important for restaurants to have clean air as it can affect people's taste buds.
"So having clean, healthy air should be a part of good business practice for restaurant owners, to know that people are breathing great air, as well as eating great food and drinking good wine, obviously."