While Covid-19 brings on unprecedented challenges and permanently shuts some small businesses, others are seeing the crisis as an opportunistic time for growth.
The owners of Paradise Indian Restaurant, who own four outlets in Sandringham, are looking to open a fifth, and the owner of modern Chinese eatery Mr Hao is on the hunt for prime real estate to open an upmarket Asian-themed gastropub.
International ramen chain Ippudo, which opened its first New Zealand branch at Westfield Newmarket in October 2019, is also going ahead with pre-existing expansion plans into Sylvia Park next month and is optimistic of a boom after the pandemic subsides.
The businesses say the impact of the virus outbreak has left them with an opportunity to fill gaps in the industry left by those that have had to shut, and also a chance to move into prime store locations and negotiate cheaper or flexible rents with landlords.
Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said many in the industry were "creative and entrepreneurial" and continued to look for opportunities even in the most challenging times.
"Whilst the majority of the industry is suffering as a result of the pandemic, we are aware that there are some businesses operating at the same or better levels year on year," Bidois said.
"Our industry has been in solid growth for the past 10 years and until Covid, there were no signs of that slowing down so we remain optimistic that there is still strong demand for our sector."
She said those that continue to be in a strong financial position are looking to capitalise on opportunities by finding good commercial lease opportunities, investing in an online business or diversifying their offer.
About 540 restaurants have closed and 9310 staff have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic.
Monthly revenue loss is down about 40 per cent from last year, and the loss to the industry per week as at August 25 was $89 million.
"Our industry is run by people who are inherently creative and entrepreneurial and so some will still be looking for new opportunities even in the most challenging times."
Steve Armitage, general manager destination at Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), described the hospitality sector as resilient and adaptive.
He said having the sector thriving was vital to the city's economic recovery.
"Auckland's hospitality industry is filled with innovative and incredibly talented people and, while this is a challenging time for many at the moment, the industry is resilient and adaptive," Armitage said.
"It's vital that we all continue to back our local food and beverage businesses because a vibrant and thriving hospitality sector is important for Auckland's economic recovery."
The Auckland Council-controlled organisation was launching Iconic Auckland Eats in the coming fortnight as part of this drive.
"Iconic Auckland Eats is a programme that supports the industry by inspiring locals and visitors to experience the breadth of unique food experiences of Tāmaki Makaurau and builds our region's brand as a food and beverage destination," Armitage said.
Salah Mohammed, owner of Paradise Restaurants, says business plunged by about 40 per cent since the second lockdown.
But barring another community virus outbreak or increase in alert levels, he is hopeful and confident business will be back to normal or even be better than before the crisis.
"People are not travelling, and when they want a day out, I think many will choose to go out to eat," Salah said.
Paradise started as a restaurant at the western end of Sandringham Rd shops, but then opened a buffet outlet around the corner and in 2016 shifted its takeaway operations a few shops down.
Early this year, Salah took over the corner space where Prague Bar used to operate, with a view to expand the main Paradise restaurant - but has since decided to turn it into a kebab and Middle Eastern pizza operations called Kebabish.
He now believes it is timely to shift the Indian bakery section out of the takeaway shop, and is looking for a new space on the same street.
"Sadly for some businesses it will be hard for them to make it through this crisis, so I am on the lookout for any good space that may become available," he said.
Salah's plan for his next venture is an Indian-style cafe that serves not only Indian pastries, snacks and cakes, but also rotis with dips and curries, and a range of Indian tea.
Paradise employs about 160 fulltime and part-time staff, and Salah says a bulk of his customers are of South Asian ethnicity.
"I want to create a space where people can enjoy the Indian breakfast tradition, and also share with Aucklanders that Indian food isn't all curry," Salah said.
Paul Wong, who owns modern Chinese skewer bar and restaurant Mr Hao on Dominion Rd, is also on the lookout for a prime location to open an upmarket Asian gastropub - and believes this is the ideal time to do that.
Wong is keeping an eye out for space vacated by failed businesses or new premises that landlords may be struggling to lease in Ponsonby or the CBD area.
"Covid's creating a lot of uncertainty, but I think it's also a good time to negotiate for better lease agreements and getting into prime real estate," he said.
Wong said his Mr Hao business, which opened in January, had been using every Covid alert level as "an opportunity" and was therefore doing okay.
"During the first lockdown, we re-wrote our entire menu based on what we've learned about what our customers want and that worked really well," he said.
"Then when we were at alert level 3, we were selling our popular spicy chicken wings as takeaways and that was a hit, too."
Wong, who returned to NZ after being away in China for 12 years, opened Mr Hao with a business partner Julian Diprose to bring something different to Dominion Rd.
The concept was based on the late-night Chinese drinking and dining spots in China called shaokao.
Mr Hao's style of food draws inspiration from across China, and a skewer range of spiced meats, seafood and vegetables.
It's best sellers include spicy chicken wings, which are fried with dried and fried chillies, spring onions, peanuts and spice, and numbing chicken, fried with numbing Sichuan peppers.
On most nights, there will be queues waiting to get into the restaurant where Monzu and Merediths once occupied.
Now Wong sees an opportunity to opening an Asian-themed gastropub, similar to those found in Singapore and Tokyo.
"We've just got to get innovative and think positive, and not just look at what we're going through now as bad times," he said.
Ippudo's New Zealand general manager Ivan Teoh also believes the "dining out culture" of Aucklanders and their love for ramen will survive the pandemic.
The ramen chain, which started in Hakata Japan in 1985, opened its first NZ store at the Rooftop on Broadway last October and will expand with its second in Sylvia Park.
"Ramen has become fashionable and popular around the world, and for many it is also a comfort food that is much needed during these uncertain times," Teoh said.
"During this pandemic many people are feeling overwhelmed with stress and anxiety, and I believe many will be seeking food like ramen that feeds both the body and soul."
Teoh said the business would go ahead with its pre-Covid expansion plans and open its Sylvia Park outlet next month with the belief the business would grow.
The expansion was also part of the company's global goal to reach 100 million customers across 14 countries, including New Zealand.
"These are challenging times, but the growth of our business is long term and our expansion into Sylvia Park is a part of that," Teoh said.
Bidois said small businesses wanting to expand or grow could take up the small business loan scheme, but should ensure they had sufficient cash flow to weather changes in alert levels.
"Hospitality businesses that are stable or looking to expand or invest in their business during the pandemic should ... spend some time looking at future trends, particularly in relation to foot traffic in the areas you are looking to open up," Bidois said.
"CBD businesses might struggle for the short to medium terms, whereas neighbourhood eateries could be in a stronger position."
Bidois also said the businesses should have strong online or takeaway options, and build premises with a dedicated pick-up window.
"Speak to landlords about what will happen if a pandemic breaks out again, and how will they help you and what are they prepared to do," she said.
"Be nimble and consider if you'd be able to adjust your offering if the market requires. Upskill and learn how to do things differently."
Bidois said the association would also be able to find experts to help with business plans and connecting with other business that might be able to help.
Food and dining will play a big part in Elemental AKL, which will run for the entire month of October to celebrate "arts eats and beats" across the city.
The festival, delivered by ATEED, features 30 free and ticketed events aimed at transforming eateries, bars, theatres and public spaces.
The line-up will feature celebrity chefs including Ben Bayly, Josh Emett and Sid Sahrawat, as well as culinary crawls, farm-to-fork cooking classes and behind the scene experiences.
For the first time, the best of Māori cuisine and kai innovation will be showcased in an event Te Ahi Komau.