Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Wellington businesses prepare for contactless takeaways and deliveries

From RNZ

There is some relief for Wellington restaurants and cafes come Wednesday when all of the country except Auckland and Northland drops to alert level 3.

They’re getting geared up for contactless takeaways and deliveries, but health restrictions mean they’re keeping expectations about takings modest.

The splash of the bucket fountain echoes desolately off the shuttered doors of restaurants and cafes in the capital’s usually bustling Cuba Street quarter.

A bleak night, but the glow from Swimsuit Coffee shows some promise for hospitality businesses allowed to open under strict rules tomorrow.

Owner Tait Burge is making plans – he has decided delivering lunch box packs is the way to go.

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

And how will he get it to the people?

“I’m using my mum’s car, same with my other workmate, we’re … having to borrow cars and whatnot but yeah, we’re excited just to … do something really.”

Burge said it would definitely not be a money spinner, but that was not the point – it was about staying connected with customers.

He chose this option as it something different – instead of an underwhelming version of the experience they usually offer.

“It’s essentially just to give the staff something to do and keeps the customers engaged with our brand and get a bit more excitement up for when we do reopen properly.

“It’s just we can’t really provide the service we want to provide at level 3, so we’d rather not kind of half ass it, in a way.”

But he acknowledged the idea was “completely unsustainable” – he has a large inner city rent to pay.

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

He said even with solid demand for delivery they have still had a large drop in income, which would not come close to improving until bars and restaurants can seat diners.

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

The lockdown has also meant the postponement of the popular annual festival of gastronomy – Wellington on a Plate.

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

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

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

Just Queen Sally’s will open up, and they were expecting to be busy again as they were located out in the suburbs where people were working from home.

Kelly said staff and customers know the drill, and would be masked.

“Outside we’ve … got cones and we’re going to mark off a one-way-traffic-in sort of queue, and then any takeaways obviously just you pick up … and you move on.”

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said a survey showed the majority of hospitality businesses either were not opening under level 3 or were not sure.

Of them, 44 per cent said “yes”, 31 per cent said “no”, and 25 per cent were unsure.

Many said it was not worth it if it was just a week.

She said many businesses were just getting over last year’s lockdown, and the drop in revenue for those that do open meant they were still likely eligible for the government’s wage subsidy.

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

She said the best thing people could do was support their favourite hospitality businesses if they wanted to see them survive.

The country, except Auckland and Northland, will stay at level 3 for a week, with the Government to review settings on Monday.

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