Article by ANZ Bluenotes: Dining out back on the menu
But Auckland businesses remain cautious
Auckland has seen an encouraging surge in restaurant bookings in recent months - but the industry still faces challenges as it rebuilds from the pandemic.
“The hospitality industry is still in flux - it's still being reshaped by the pandemic, and we won’t know what it will end up looking like until the masks come off and tourists are back”. - Krishna Botica, President of the Auckland Restaurant Association
Auckland Restaurant Association President Krishna Botica says some areas of the inner city – including Britomart, Ponsonby and K-Road – are seeing a big lift in reservations.
“People are coming out for dinner in the city to celebrate special occasions,” she says.
“We are seeing more large groups, they’re more organised and they are booking early.”
Botica says inner city restaurants - including the three she owns and operates - have also seen a recent wave of lunch bookings by corporates.
“It’s great to see them using their budgets to encourage teams to come back into the city and spend time together,” she says.
How Café Hanoi survived a pandemic
Many suburban eateries are also seeing strong continuing trade, Botica says, with diners choosing to support local and catch up with friends close to home.
Figures from earlier this month from Stats NZ appear to support her view, showing retail card spending on hospitality (restaurants and hotels) was up 78.2 per cent (to $505 million) in August 2022 compared with 2021, when adjusted for seasonal effects.
It’s a welcome relief for an industry hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic - but the recovery is patchy and there is still a lot of uncertainty.
“The hospitality industry is still in flux - it's still being reshaped by the pandemic,” Botica says, “and we won’t know what it will end up looking like until the masks come off and tourists are back”.
The pandemic was brutal for many in the industry, she says, and the effects of it will be long-lasting.
“We had to make some really tough decisions and walk away from businesses that we had put a lot of time and energy into,” Botica says.
“Thankfully we are in a better position now.
“I learned that making decisions quickly and confidently can often be the difference between life and death, for a business.”
She says, in her case, the challenge of making the right decisions was helped by having a strong relationship with her bank.
“We really needed the bank to get their head around our business in a far more intimate way than they ever, ever had,” Botica says.
“They were patient, they let us talk a lot, and they could see we were prepared to make sacrifices, personally, in order to keep going.”
That relationship continues to develop, with ANZ Relationship Manager Oliver Mellsop this month working as a kitchen hand for a day in one of Krishna’s restaurants to raise money for the Cancer Society’s Daffodil Day appeal.
“There’s no doubt it’s been a rough few years for Krishna and her team,” Mellsop says, “but it’s great to see them back on track - in many ways stronger than before.
“I’m really pleased we were able to support an amazing and resilient business.”
Business and mental health
With the loosening of Covid restrictions, Botica expects the surge in bookings to continue - but she is concerned about the effect the pandemic has had on those working in hospitality.
“The biggest thing for me, that is still ongoing, is concern over our mental wellbeing,” Botica says.
“It’s been relentless for two years, and people are still stressed, even traumatised, by some of the things that have happened.”
She says some workers are long overdue on taking annual leave and in many cases want to spend time with their families abroad after not seeing them for years.
In addition, Botica says the flu and cold season, combined with ongoing Covid cases, has forced many restaurants to operate with reduced hours.
“If everyone was on board we wouldn't have a staffing shortage, but they're not,” Botica says.
“We're forced to play catch up - so we just need to be patient and put our people first.
“We're very proud of our team and, through the pandemic, we've all become a lot closer. It's very much ‘we're all in this together’ and we need to appreciate that everybody's story is a little bit different - but that everybody's got something going on.”
To find out more about how Alliott NZ can help your business contact our team in Auckland on 09 520 9200. Alliott NZ is a Top 30 NZ Accounting Firm and 2022 Newmarket Business Awards winner.
Article first published by Tarek Bazley for ANZ as Dining out back on the menu in Auckland but businesses remain cautious. (October 2022). Retrieved from https://bluenotes.anz.com/posts/2022/10/anz-news-new-zealand-hospo-covid19