GOLOCAL

Some Rotorua hospitality business owners have been ''brought to tears'' as they reconnect with customers in a contactless world and trial survival tactics.

The move from Covid-19 lockdown to level 3 has allowed many more CBD businesses to begin trading again in a world many of them say is "completely different" to before.

As many businesses introduce limited takeaway menus and contactless pick-up and delivery systems, they are asking locals for support now more than ever.

Justin Kala Genest, Jamie Bow, and Georgia Moberey welcome back their customers as Abracadabra Cafe and Bar gets back in business during level 3. Photo / Andrew Warner
Justin Kala Genest, Jamie Bow, and Georgia Moberey welcome back their customers as Abracadabra Cafe and Bar gets back in business during level 3. Photo / Andrew Warner

Abracadabra Cafe and Bar owner Justin Genest said the Government's wage subsidy meant they could not only pay staff but create a new plan in order to open in level 3.

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Genest said he and wife Nadia worked with head chefs and business managers over the lockdown to design a new website with an online ordering system for contactless pick-up or delivery.

"It means the transition from this level to the next will be a little bit easier."

When the cafe and bar on Amohia St opened under level 3, Genest admitted to feeling emotional seeing his customers again for the first time since lockdown.

"Everybody who came to pick up their order I knew either by name or by face. It was a really emotional day," he said.

"It really brought tears to my eyes to see the support from the local people. It's amazing."

Genest said opening in level 3 was their way of giving back to the community and he has used the opportunity to also supply free coffees to essential workers in the CBD, including pharmacies.

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"Local businesses are what drives the community and the economy. It keeps people in jobs.

"It [Covid-19] has flipped our business upside down but we will come out of it stronger."

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Brew craft beer pub co-owner Nigel Gregory said Covid-19 has had a "massive impact" on his business and the lockdown meant he had to close the Brew bar on Eat Street.

"Obviously it had a big impact on staff, the future is so uncertain."

But level 3 meant the pub could start to offer a new takeaway menu.

"We have looked at it as an opportunity to introduce the processes for a takeaway and delivery service into the business because we haven't done it before.

"It might be something that becomes part of our business in the future."

However, operating under level 3 rules were different.

"The level of contact is so different for a business that is based around service and building rapport with people. But that's just the nature of getting through to level 2 and beyond."

Gregory said opening in level 3 was like a double-edged sword.

"At the end of the day we want everyone to be safe ... it gives our staff something to do and start to see a bit of normal life return."

The new menu is a cut-down version of the original including pizzas and burgers and some craft beer, with only a handful of staff operating.

"The general feeling is that people are being really supportive and are conscious they want their dollars to go to local businesses."

Owner of Pig & Whistle and Capers Epicurean cafe Gregg Brown said Covid-19 had been "devastating" for the business but he was glad to be operating again in level 3.

Staff were able to interact with each other again, however, business in level 3 looked a lot different.

"The experiences in hospitality are social. You take that out of it and they are just not the same. Click and collect and delivery are two different businesses to what we would normally be doing. But we are doing the best we can."

Normally, he said, the pub would be full at lunchtime and now it wasn't.

"It is completely different, completely the opposite."

Because of that, Brown encouraged people to support local businesses.

"Buy local is the message. We need to pull together and support each other as best we can."

Reg Hennessy, Hospitality New Zealand Rotorua branch president and owner of Hennessy's Irish Bar. Photo / File
Reg Hennessy, Hospitality New Zealand Rotorua branch president and owner of Hennessy's Irish Bar. Photo / File

Reg Hennessy, Hospitality New Zealand Rotorua branch president and owner of Hennessy's Irish Bar, said the bar was not opening in level 3 because it was not suited to a takeaway menu.

"It doesn't suit our model. An Irish pub is not a takeaway pub."

However, he applauded those that were and encouraged people to support local businesses, which he said needed it now more than ever.

Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty regional manager Alan Sciascia. Photo / File
Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty regional manager Alan Sciascia. Photo / File

Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty regional manager Alan Sciascia said it was "absolutely essential" for all businesses to open as soon as possible.

"Being without customers for five-plus weeks puts a lot of pressure on businesses and business owners. However, some businesses can't easily convert to meet and comply with the restrictions so they must wait until level 2."

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

Sciascia said operating in level 3 was "very different" to normal.

"Customers cannot enter the premises and must leave after collecting their purchase. So it's very different for the customer (no social activity) and very different for the business (much-reduced income)."

He said it was more important than ever to support local hospitality businesses because "local businesses employ local people, buy local products and rely on local customers to survive".