New Zealand's only food-hall building factory has a robot working 24 hours a day to create fittings for a venue seating up to 700 people in a $1 billion project on Auckland's waterfront.
Once finished, Commercial Bay's food hall will be trucked to the under-construction PwC Tower in what one chef says is unique in New Zealand.
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"This is the country's only food-hall building factory," said David Johnson, Precinct Properties' Commercial Bay project director. "These are not restaurants, although there will be those in Commercial Bay too. These are more artisan outlets that will sell food from around $8 to $15 a serving."
Furniture and fittings for 26 food outlets are being built in the factory for next March's Harbour Eats opening on level two of the 40-level tower.
Tim Woods, a senior Precinct development manager, showed off the work at Complete Construction's Richard Pearse Dr factory that specialises in off-site joinery, cabinetry and shop fittings.
"The 26 food operators will trade from 7am until 10pm seven days a week, serving everything from juices, Taiwanese chicken, pasta, salads, coffee, Vietnamese food, a bakery, dumplings, sushi, high tea, American hotdogs," Woods said. Food truck brands Kai Eatery and Got Pasta will also trade from the food hall.
"It's a market-style food hall and what will be made there could go into the office towers for lunches, sendoffs, birthdays, etc," Woods said. "We're working on a new application to enable customers to link with the Harbour Eats food operators and order. Maybe there will be runners bringing the food to them."
The densest or highest concentration of New Zealanders, or about 10,000 people, work in Precinct-owned buildings near Commercial Bay: Zurich House, 1 Queen St, the AMP Tower and PwC Building.
"Exchange pods" had been built, accommodating kitchen, servery and counter areas for six businesses, and wood and steel gives an industrial-style look appropriate for the historic waterfront area, Woods said.
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American oak has been used extensively in seating, tables and finishes, all designed by New York's AvroKO in partnership with local firm Izzard Design.
"We went to New York's best food halls: Gotham West Market, Urbanspace by Vanderbilt and Eataly. We saw some of the best food halls in the world there so now we have the opportunity here to create something different to anything else in New Zealand," Woods said.
"We're going beyond the typical nine-to-five workday in the CBD because the biggest growth market for us is tourists and residents and they are attracted to an evening economy and a weekend destination. Our leasing strategy reflects that," Woods said.
Johnson said factory systems and robots halved timeframes and enabled tenants to experience layouts before completion.
Errors could be corrected before fittings are finished, trucked to the site and craned into place. For example, a concrete facade was replaced with a more interesting Chinese handmade brick finish, bar stools went from fixed to swivel and drainage, gas, handwash basins and entry location positions were fine-tuned.
Two robots lift then cut, route, drill and shift and move components for the dining hall, which will overlook the harbour on level two of the 40-level tower when it opens next March.
Mat Hughes, a Complete Construction director, said of the 40,000 hours needed to complete Harbour Eats' fittings, about 37,000 hours would be in the factory.
The food hall is being made in two factories, each about 2200sq m: a joinery warehouse with robots and a mirror image of Harbour Eat's floor layout where components are assembled before being dismantled, or flat-packed and trucked out.
One German-made Bargstedt robot picks up, moves, lowers and places huge flat boards weighing 100kg-plus to create the next run to be processed. A neighbouring CNC router robot cuts, drills and routes those boards for the components.
"We programme this in advance so it can work all through the night," Hughes said of the Bargstedt robot. "These machines here can cut 10 to 100 times faster than people and they're completely accurate."