It’s a feast rather than a famine for many Hawke’s Bay hospitality businesses despite social distancing and other Level 2-related restrictions trying to spoil the party.

BayBuzz spoke to a few hospo stalwarts for their take on the current state of business.

Louise Stobart, owner of Birdwoods in Havelock North says business has been “better than expected” although they are missing their Auckland customers.

“Aucklanders added great value, but we’ve had absolutely fantastic support from locals, for which we are most grateful,” says Louise. The loss of ‘visitors from Auckland’ has also hit Napier eatery Mister D, but local support continues to be strong.

“We’ve always appealed to Wellingtonians and Aucklanders doing a ‘Baycation’, so we miss that extra customer in the weekends. We had a small boom after lockdown and now it has gone back to slower than usual winter trading. We’ve also noticed that the over-70s definitely don’t venture out as often,” says Mister D co-owner Prue Barton.

Piku owner Ben Harper reports his Havelock North restaurant is busy for lunch and fully booked seven nights a week, thanks to locals and Pipi owner Alexandra Tylee says both the pizza truck and restaurant have been “wonderfully supported”.

“It’s better than the last time we were in Level 2, and while it’s hard not having all our tables, people are still coming out for dinner. And everyone is pretty relaxed about the situation, which helps a lot,” she says.

While there’s uncertainty about what’s to come, there’s a shared feeling that the sector is performing well considering the Covid challenges.

“I think on the whole it is pretty strong but we are all feeling for those in hospitality in Auckland. And very aware that it could just as easily be us, so taking each day and each service as it comes,” says Alexandra.

I think most hospitality businesses should be optimistic,” says Ben. “With no international travel, Hawke’s Bay as a destination will be more popular than ever.”

While generally positive, uncertainty remains on the menu.

While she’s not sure what to expect in the coming months, Louise says there is a need to be imaginative, positive and adapt as the situation changes. “Sadly, I think there will be some businesses that cannot survive due to their dependency on the international market.”

“Hospitality is tough at the moment,” says Prue. “It is the uncertainty that creates
strain for the future. This is not going away any time soon so we all have to adjust the best we can. We have made some changes at Mister D like closing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the day to streamline the week and the staff.

“In these times, businesses have to keep on their toes and adjust quickly.”

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