Christchurch Restaurant Discusses Effects of Lockdown

Christchurch Italian restaurant, Francesca's Italian Kitchen, is feeling the effects of the recent lockdowns just like every other establishment in the industry.

"The biggest effect has been financially, just like everyone else," said Ben Patton, restaurant manager.

"We're surviving through it, with about 30 percent of our normal turnover in level 3 and 70 percent in level 2."

The restaurant is right next to a theatre, which is where most of its customers come from. However, with the theatre closed, the restaurant has suffered.

Operating at level 2 requires a maximum of 50 customers within an inside venue. This is a slight reduction for Francesca's, but the lockdown has culled a lot of its customer traffic.

"We have reduced seating by about 15-20 percent, so not too big of an impact," said Patton.

"However, as we are in the central city, we've lost a lot of foot traffic with people working from home. We're lacking that boost from work lunches, which has had a minor impact."

During level 3, the restaurant pivoted to takeaway.

"Takeaway isn't something we normally do, as a dine-in restaurant. However, we reduced our menu to better suit takeaways - such as reducing portion sizes, removing dishes or ingredients that don't travel or reheat well - and worked with a great supplier to set up packaging," said Patton.

"Last year, we used Mobi2Go for our online ordering, but this time we didn't because we gambled that it'd be a short lockdown. So far, we've managed with just email and phone," he added.

As an authentic Italian restaurant, a lot of Francesca's ingredients are imported from Italy.

"The Covid situation in Italy has been more of an issue than the Covid situation here," said Patton.

"One of our major suppliers could not receive a shipment from Italy for three months, and then we’d have a problem."

Most of the local suppliers have been consistent, said Patton, despite some cost increases with freight.

"We haven't seen an increase in demand for takeaway in level 2," said Patton.

"A lot of customers are looking forward to dining in, or they make coming out to dinner a special trip.

"I think people want to get back into their normal routines."

Patton hopes that traffic will pick up again once the theatre reopens. It's also nearly the Christmas season, which is a hectic time for hospitality.