In her 21st year in business and hospitality in Rotorua, Jo Romanes' latest project has lift-off.

Terrace Airside opened at 8.30am on Tuesday to a "huge crowd" at Rotorua Airport.

The offshoot of Terrace Kitchen at the Rotorua lakefront had a temporary pop-up while work on the permanent eatery site was completed, as part of the airport redevelopment.

Terrace Airside owner Jo Romanes. Photo / Andrew Warner
Terrace Airside owner Jo Romanes. Photo / Andrew Warner
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The trial-run began at the end of November, after the closure of Robert Harris at the airport, following the retirement of operator Barbara Holmes.

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The full Terrace Airside has now opened as part of the second stage of the redevelopment.

The second stage also includes screening facilities, a separate new departures lounge and outdoor landscaped plaza and seating area as well as a business hub.

Romanes said she was "always looking for opportunities" in Rotorua.

"It's always been very much a long-term commitment and investment to the city ... It was time to spread our wings."

This week's opening had been "hotly anticipated by the airport staff and Air New Zealand crews," she said.

"Everybody's been watching the progress through the fence as the cafe has taken shape ... It was actually really useful, having the trial run with the pop-up because we got to know all the locals who work at the airport and got feedback from them about what they enjoyed and what they were looking for in the new space."

Romanes said the new venture also gave her the confidence to retain staff during the Covid-19 downturn.

"It was nice also for the team to be involved in the creative process with the food and styling and everything else. So it's given us a focus through some quite difficult times over the last few months - getting ready behind the scenes operationally."

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She hoped Terrace Airside, would be a cafe destination for people living in eastern Rotorua, as well as airport travellers and was excited to see "lots of people coming in".

"We've seen people coming out here for meetings and mums' groups coming out with kids who've been enjoying watching the action on the runway and people boarding planes and people who live close by. Quite a mixture of people."

Terrace Airside was different to Terrace Kitchen in many ways, Romanes said.

"It has very much a daytime focus with fresh, innovative foods largely made-to-go from the cabinet ... Whereas Terrace Kitchen is all about the kitchen and is open in the evenings and has quite a strong bar focus."