The leap from a career in insurance in Asia to introducing Rotorua to the world of Pita Pit is a big one - but Phil Haines says judging by the reaction he's received from strangers so far, he's made the right move.

It's been a whirlwind of a journey since he moved back to New Zealand - and Rotorua - last May, making the decision to branch into the franchise world and subsequently purchasing the Rotorua Pita Pit franchise.

But that journey is only just beginning with the new store in the Redwood Centre opening next week. Mr Haines said he and his partner made the decision to return to New Zealand when she was expecting twins.

Family ties saw him return to Rotorua, and the Pita Pit franchise appealed after talking to friends who owned a franchise.


After going to a national conference meeting other franchisees he was sold on the concept, and there had been no looking back since, he said.

"It was just fortunate that Rotorua was still untapped. All of the stars were aligned and I was so lucky."

He said there had been a huge reaction since news came out that he was bringing the chain into Rotorua.

"We had 215 applications for a staff of nine."

Mr Haines said he was thrilled with the staff they had taken on.

While new to the food business, he said he believed many of the attributes he learned in his previous roles would serve him well.

He had previously sold real estate in Rotorua before moving into the commercial insurance businesses and working in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and the past 10 years in China.

"Pita Pit is something Rotorua didn't have, it's a really good brand which stands for the right things and is tasty, fresh and healthy."


Mr Haines said that the "community-minded" aspect of the business had also added to the attraction.

While they looked at three sites for the store, Mr Haines said he felt the location at the Redwoods Centre was a huge bonus.

Having the Redwoods up the road tied in well with the healthy eating concept.

He said it would appeal to those looking for a quick and easy, but still healthy, meal option.

Mr Haines said while the focus was on getting the first one up and running, he hoped to look at expanding to open another Rotorua store in the next 12-18 months.

He said Pita Pit would be different to other quick service food as they customised each pita for the individual.

He said one of the benefits of Pita Pit was that there was such a wide range of options for people that they could find their favourites, then try some new options.

"We are not health food, but healthier food, a better option that will make you feel good about making the decision of what to eat."