Saturday, November 27

Wellington Businesses Gear Up for Takeout and Contactless Deliveries

There is some relief for Wellington’s restaurants and cafes on Wednesday when the entire country except Auckland and Northland falls to alert level 3.

The owner of Swimsuit Coffee, Tait Burge.

The owner of Swimsuit Coffee, Tait Burge.
Photo: RNZ / Hamish Cardwell

They’re gearing up for takeout and contactless deliveries, but health restrictions mean they keep fundraising expectations modest.

The splash of the cube fountain echoes bleakly from the closed doors of restaurants and cafes in the usually bustling Calle Cuba neighborhood of the capital.

A gloomy night, but the brilliance of Swimsuit Coffee shows some promise for hospitality businesses that will be allowed to open tomorrow under strict rules.

Owner Tait Burge is making plans – he’s decided that delivering lunchbox packages is the way to go.

“You can get a filter coffee, a baguette, a cookie, a slice, and some pickles … all from local vendors around here.

And how will you get it to the people?

“I’m using my mother’s car, the same as my other co-worker, we’re … having to borrow cars and all that, but yeah, we’re excited to … do something for real.”

Burge said he definitely wouldn’t be a money spinner, but that wasn’t the point, it was about staying connected with customers.

You chose this option because it is something different, rather than a disappointing version of the experience they usually offer.

“It’s basically about giving staff something to do and keeping customers engaged with our brand and generating a little more buzz for when we successfully reopen.

“It’s just that we can’t really provide the service that we want to provide at level 3, so we’d rather not be half-baked, somehow.”

But he acknowledged that the idea was “completely unsustainable”: he has to pay a large rent in the city center.

Wellington Brewery Garage Project co-founder Jos Ruffell said they have been able to operate at level 4, but social distancing requirements make it difficult.

He said that even with strong demand for home delivery, they have still had a big drop in revenue, which wouldn’t come close to improving until bars and restaurants can seat diners.

Jos Ruffell from Garage Project.

Jos Ruffell.
Photo: Max Towle / The Wireless

“Hopefully level 3 is just a very short stop on the way to level 2 and ultimately level 1.”

The closure has also meant the postponement of the popular annual food festival, Wellington on a Plate.

Bronwyn Kelly, co-owner of Maranui Cafe and Queen Sally’s Diamond Deli in Lyall Bay, said they were much more ready for level 3 this time around.

“The first day of the Level 3 lockdown last year was probably one of the most stressful days of my entire life in the hospital.

“Where all of a sudden you go from running a café to having to handle a crowd of people and their social distancing outside.”

Bronwyn Kelly, co-owner of Maranui Cafe.

Bronwyn Kelly.
Photo: Supplied

Only Queen Sally’s will open, and they expected to be busy again as they were located in the suburbs where people worked from home.

Kelly said staff and clients are aware of the drill and would be masked.

“Outside we have … we have cones and we’re going to mark a kind of one-way traffic queue, and then any takeout, obviously, you just pick it up … and move on.”

Restaurant Association executive director Marisa Bidois said a survey showed that most hotel businesses were not opening below level 3 or were unsure.

Of them, 44 percent said ‘yes’, 31 percent said ‘no’ and 25 percent were unsure.

Many said it wasn’t worth it if it was just a week.

Marisa bidois

Marisa Bidois.
Photo: Supplied

He said many businesses were getting past the close of last year, and the drop in revenue for those that did open meant they were likely still eligible for the government wage subsidy.

“I was talking to a member who said that they had literally made their last payments on the loans they had taken to cover the 2020 lockdown a week before we moved to level 4.”

He said the best thing people could do was support their favorite hotel companies if they wanted them to survive.

The country, except Auckland and Northland, will remain at Level 3 for a week, and the government will review the configuration on Monday.

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