Restaurant & Cafe magazine spoke with Jon Hassall, General Manager of Foodco New Zealand, about how he and his team have managed the COVID-19 lockdown so far and what things will look like going forward.

In preparation to manage and support its outlets and staff through the pandemic, Foodco New Zealand implemented a series of weekly emails, short videos and specific Zoom meetings that focussed on finance, operations, and marketing.

“We started working from home two days before the lock-down, so we had our systems tested and in-use before we really needed them,” explained Hassall.

The issue of property lease and rent has been a crucial and difficult part of the Alert Level 4 lockdown. Hassall has worked closely FANZ on this matter and explained they are united in their expectations of a fair and reasonable outcome for all.

“In Australia, there is moratorium legislation on leasing, in conjunction with a proportionality approach. The principles of the code are to establish boundaries that help facilitate discussions,” Hassall noted. “It’s clear that both parties to a lease will have to wear some of the pain but at least we know the lessor must adhere to an obligation of good faith and must provide assistance during this extraordinary period.”

“Unfortunately, I’m dealing with a couple of gun-ho landlords at the moment, so Government intervention and guidance couldn’t come sooner.”

In conjunction with the guidance on lessors and leases, Hassall expected the Labour Government to extend the Wage Subsidy, which will help SME’s through a few more weeks of closures.

Hassall explained that the two brands under Foodco operating in New Zealand, Jamaica Blue and Muffin Break may trade from a handful of select, non-mall environments under Level 3, but that Foodco’s focus would remain on reopening both brands with dignity under Level 2 rules.

You can, however, now order Mother’s Day gift vouchers online, pre-book a catering event and collect some of your Muffin Misfits that may be missing from your collection.

“This is just the start of the innovation that you’ll see from us over the next couple of weeks,” noted Hassall.

“We are certainly focused on the key projects that deliver revenue and a clear return on investment, some of the other projects and ideas are taking a backseat whilst we navigate our, and our partners business out of this situation.

Hassall believes the government needs to step up with more assistance surrounding leasing as well as a second round of wage subsidy.

Its realistic to (unfortunately) assume that some concepts or groups might not make it, this will focus all of us over the next few years.”

Hassall concluded that the future hospitality landscape will see a fundamental shift, but that Foodco’s objective will remain the same.

“Our job has always been about delivering the best products and brands, with the best partners, and with ROI in all our actions. Nothing changes, although it is going to get much tougher.”