Reach out, seek support: Restaurant Association CEO Marisa Bidois' message to hospitality owners

Hospitality business owners staring bleakly down the barrel of at least another week without business should reach out for support, says the New Zealand Restaurant Association CEO.

New Zealand's first community case in months pushed the country into alert level 4 on Tuesday, which means businesses are closed except for essential services such as supermarkets, pharmacies, medical clinics, and petrol stations.

That means further closures for the hospitality industry which has already taken major hits during multiple lockdowns last year. 

Restaurant Association CEO Marisa Bidois told Newshub the best thing any hospo owners waking up feeling stressed or dejected can do is check in with their local restaurant association for support. 

"And this isn't blatant self-promotion!" she was quick to clarify. 

"But if they're thinking 'I can't go through this again', the best thing to do is to talk to people who can help navigate the situation - it's a lot of pressure for businesses to go through alone."

Bidois said the association has templates that can map out the next steps for business owners, capabilities to help people navigate the wage subsidy, and tools to help communications with uncertain team members. 

"Don't sit there and try to create your own communications. We've got tech you can use, we can take the thinking out of it... we've done this before," she said. 

It also can provide mental health support, especially for stressed managers who have uncertain team members looking to them as they deal with their own families and loved ones. 

"This is the time think associations come into their own a time of crisis support and advice," she said. 

"We have mental health support as well to help with stress for you and your team.

"Seek help and speak to people who have the info at their fingertips. [Then you can] focus on your team and what you need to do." 

At alert levels 3 and 4 last year, many hospitality businesses pivoted to become essential food suppliers at expense of time, energy and cost. Some big-name restaurants even created food box deliveries for customers to try making their own signature meals at home. 

But Bidois said those who are considering another switch, even at a later, lower alert level, need to think about their capabilities. 

"For those who have been in business and done this before they will know what their capabilities are they've tested it - many did it really well! Those that know they can do it might be thinking of jumping into that mode," she said. 

"But for many if they've gone through this they may have realised it's not worth it for the business to be pivoting for delivery - not everyone is set up for that - and of course, level 4 is more restricted." 

She said any new businesses who have begun in the last year and a half who are considering pivoting their model to allow for restrictions should call the association to talk through the process. 

"Give us a call and we can give them the contact of someone who has done it before and take them through the process and any pitfalls," Bidois said.

"Again, you don't have to do this alone."