Isolating staff, dwindling customers a ‘disaster’ for city outlets

Managing isolating staff will be a big hurdle for businesses as the country enters Phase 2 of the Covid response but their bigger worry is the dwindling foot traffic – with some outlets already shutting their doors.

Two years ago Azzi and Majid opened Une Deux Cafe on Karangahape road.

The timing was not great to say the least but with help from their landlord and the government they managed to stay afloat.

But with that support no longer – Azzi says it is not looking good.

“So we are working after hours, we are not hiring any staff, we are cutting some of the items in the menu, instead of supplying some some of the ingredients, we are just making them from scratching ourselves.”

The empty tables at lunch hour show the extent of their struggle.

The marketing business upstairs that used to share the lease with them left last lockdown. Now the full cost falls onto them.

It is just Azzi and Majid. So if one of them gets Covid that will mean up to 10 days off and it’s beginning to take a huge toll on the pair.

“I’m losing hope some days I’m feeling terrible. I think the main problem for hospitality owners like me is to keep up their mental health, we have mortgages, we have kids at home, we have lives – this is not the It’s supposed to pay for our life, but right now we shut down the living part.”

Next door is Jamal Shergyt who runs a cafe by himself so there is no fall back, if Covid reaches him, the cafe closes.

“I mean, I never thought about it, but if it happens there’s not much I can do. I just have to face it and take it.”

Despite fewer customers, he was paying more in the kitchen as inflation starts to bite.

“At least you’re talking 5-10 percent increase and I can see because I do my shopping nearly every day and I see the prices that have changed and if the expenses are high and the revenue is low [that] doesn’t balance at the end of the day, so you just end up giving it to the tax man.”

He said they needed government support fast.

“I mean, it’s not something that you need tomorrow, you need it like now, they’re gonna do it too late, people will be shutting their doors.”

At Mexico Britomart that was already the case.

Two weeks ago they turned off the lights, owner Nick McCaw explained they could not survive in red.

“Just the customers didn’t come, nobody came to work in Britomart, nobody came to work in the CBD and when there’s no one around, there’s no one to come to your restaurant, so we tried really hard for 10 days.

“We tried to cut costs, we tried to find a way around it so that we might ride out this storm, but we just haven’t been able to do that.”

He said the only way they could re-open was with government support.

“We were supported when our revenue was down 30 percent and when our revenue was down 40 percent. At the moment it’s down 50 or 80 percent, we just need that support again, we need it to keep our people employed because if we lose our teams, we are losing our business.”

Nick is also part of The Britomart Group which owns several other restaurants including nightclubs AV and Saturday’s and cocktail bar Caretaker.

Staring down a surge in Covid cases he said it was going to become a nightmare, with the likelihood of more staff would be isolating over the next few weeks, while some were already close contacts of other cases.

“It’s going to be a total disaster in the next few weeks. We’re not going to be able to open many different businesses, teams cannot be put together, you just can’t do that it doesn’t work.

“Kitchens don’t work by just grabbing one and putting them into another it just doesn’t work. So the truth is we’re just facing a disaster even bigger than we’ve got today, so there’s no way through that. “

Despite the last weekend being the 10 year anniversary of opening Mexico Britomart, instead of a celebration the windows were decorated in signs bearing the bad news.

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