For many small businesses in Northland the Covid-19 lockdown has been a hammer blow from which they will struggle to recover.

It has brought others their best sales ever.

The fortunate few include North Indian Food in Kawakawa — known by locals as ''the butter chicken place'' — where business is up at least 50 per cent since it was allowed to reopen for pre-ordered takeways.

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The business, which is owned by Natesh and Latha Prakash, was forced to close for five weeks during level 4, and reopening amid tight level 3 restrictions was daunting for the Indian-born couple.

Latha Prakash said she assumed only businesses like McDonalds, with its drive-through facilities and support from a franchise chain, would be able to reopen.

But after studying the Covid-19 regulations they found a way to fire up the kitchen again. Help from their 18-year-old son, Meghshyam Prakash, who set up a Facebook page and a website as well as explaining some of the Covid terminology, was crucial.

Now customers can order online, via Facebook message, by phone or text message before collecting their meals from a table by the shop door. Payment is contactless and the details of every customer are written down just in case contact tracing is required.

''At first I didn't think we'd be able to open. I didn't know what to do,'' Latha Prakash said.

''Then I expected it to be very quiet because there are no tourists or travellers — but it turned out to be the other way. This has been our busiest two weeks since we started 17 years ago.''

Before the Covid-19 crisis the couple did not keep a tally of customers but estimated they had 30 to 40 a day. Now they were averaging 60 a day, despite keeping shorter hours.

The only issue they faced was Paywave fees for contactless payment, which added up to about $150 a week. It was a significant cost for a small business, Latha Prakash said.

''But we can't do anything about it. We're happy to be in business.''


Natesh Prakash said five weeks with fixed costs but no income had been difficult, but their suppliers had helped them get through by putting bills on hold during level 4.

Latha Prakash believed business was good during level 3 because Kawakawa residents with jobs in Whangārei, Paihia or Kerikeri used to buy food before heading home.

Now people couldn't travel far so they had to buy local.

Also, people had missed takeaways during level 4, and they were making a conscious effort to support local businesses.

The couple had even noticed a change in the meals people were ordering with a shift to spicier curries.