Restaurant Association CEO Marisa Bidois presented to the Epidemic Response Committee outlining the current issues facing the sector, calling for immediate financial assistance and giving three recommendations for the government to adopt in the coming weeks.

She called primarily for additional relief to manage fixed overheads as well as cashflow assistance to keep hospitality businesses afloat during the level 4 period when they have no ability to generate income.

She laid out three immediate recommendations for government as we track back to Level 3:

1. Provide clear operations guidance for hospitality at all Alert levels

2. Consider the implementation of contactless and kerbside delivery options

3. Amend the Ministry of Health-issued hospitality guidance.

She also set out some of the hospitality sector’s long term considerations, as it searches for its new normal.

“As an essential service, the food sector has been in higher demand than any other. However adhering to Government guidelines has not been straightforward,” said Bidois.

“The most common frustration among our members has been the sheer volume of inconsistent advice around food as an essential service, and the absence of advice of operation when alert Levels change.

“We need MBIE to fast track development of operational guidance for hospitality. This guidance is currently non-existent, despite our businesses operating under food control plans and strict food safety requirements set by MPI.”

Bidois went on to acknowledge the unprecedented time New Zealand was in but stressed the importance of transparency around decision making and fairness of guidelines. 

“New Zealand also remains an international outlier in terms of contactless and kerbside food delivery options, despite many countries maintaining these while under similar lockdown conditions. In support of the Government’s decision to put health first, our Contactless Delivery Programme adopts a less is more approach, establishing a criteria that will ensure businesses participating are only those that we can be assured will maintain the highest protocols around safe preparation and delivery.”

Bidois called for the government to review its Covid-19 guidelines for hospitality establishments.

“These guidelines, issued by the Minister of Health on 21 March, are grossly inadequate. The resulting guidelines were rushed and issued with insufficient sector consultation, leaving large parts of the hospitality sector unaccounted for. We would like officials to relook at the guidelines, and ensure that they better represent the diversity of the hospitality sector and how these businesses need to conduct themselves when we move between different Alert Levels.

“There is significant apprehension within the hospitality industry around the future appetite of local diners, figuratively. Members are unsure as to whether Kiwis will venture out, or continue to stay home for fear of contracting the virus. When the time comes, we will be looking for a clear, consistent, and concerted effort from the Government to ensure messaging reassures New Zealanders that they can feel safe to get back out there and enjoy dining out once again” concluded Bidois.

She pointed out that before the current COVID-19 pandemic, the hospitality industry was growing. It employed more than 133,000 people, over 18,000 restaurants and food outlets, generating annual sales in excess of $11 billion.

The Restaurant Association New Zealand advocates for more than 2,300 hospitality businesses in New Zealand, representing more than 69,000 employees. The association was established in 1972, to offer advice, help and assistance in every facet of the vibrant and diverse hospitality industry, as well as to advocate for its members.

At its core, the association’s mission is to be the link between good food and good business so that its members can thrive.