The start of alert level 3 has seen thousands of hungry customers rise early to queue at their local McDonald's drive-thru, ready to spend some of the spare cash saved from weeks of dining in.
COVID-19 alert level 3 has seen a flurry of hospitality and retail businesses open up shop, offering contactless drive-thru, click-and-collect and delivery - a welcome change after weeks of little-to-no cash flow.
McDonald's has 137 of its 170 outlets open, which includes all those with drive-thru aside from those attached to malls.
McDonald's head of communications Simon Kenny said that queues as expected and customers had been patient. A Hastings drive-thru had 50 cars waiting at 4:45am on Tuesday morning and cars had started queuing at McDonald's Greenlane from 2am. Shakes and soft-serve cones were off the menu, but fries and burgers were in hot demand.
At midday on Tuesday, restaurants had been twice as busy as normal. Feedback from various outlets suggested that most customers were happy to forgo their usual morning fix.
"Anecdotally, [the most popular] has been burgers for breakfast.
"The biggest selling items [were] Big Macs and cheeseburgers: we have an all-day menu, so people can order burgers any time," Kenny said.
At 11:30am at McDonald's Balmoral, around 30 cars of people waited to be served, taking around 45 minutes to reach the payment window where they were greeted by a gloved staff member.
"It's obviously much busier than a 'normal' Tuesday, but restaurants are used to managing busy drive-thrus," Kenny said.
Customers were encouraged to use payWave wherever possible.
"Crew hold the terminal with a gloved hand: if customers need to enter their pin, [it's] sanitised.
"If they need to use cash, there are specific cash handling procedures, [including] changing gloves and hand sanitation," Kenny added.
Contactless drive-thru and delivery for Restaurant Brands outlets KFC, Pizza Hut and Carls' Jr will be phased in over the next week, with Pizza Hut offering contactless delivery only.
KFC drive-thru outlets opened at various locations from Tuesday at 1pm, with 39 outlets offering delivery, including in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Manawatu/Whangaui and Canterbury.
Customers could choose from a reduced menu, including popular items such as the 'deluxe quarter pack', 'Colonel's lunch', bucket meals and snacks such as popcorn chicken, nuggets and wings.
"KFC has a broader menu than our other restaurants, so by reducing it during level 3, we're able to easily ensure safe social distancing is maintained at all times," Restaurant Brands Group CEO Russel Creedy said.
Following the Prime Minister's announcement that New Zealand would move to alert level 3 at just before midnight on Monday, April 27, leaders in the hospitality and retail industries said it was welcome news for businesses struggling for cash flow.
"With fixed costs unable to be paid, opening up takeaway services allows them to generate a small amount of revenue," Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said.
"Lots of customers have needed to buy products over the last month [and] have been unable to do so because they've been deemed 'not essential'," Greg Harford, chief executive of Retail New Zealand added.
Ahead of the change from alert level 4 to level 3, local restaurants had planned to reopen using a delivery table set at a distance least two metres away from staff. Customers could choose contactless home delivery, or could pick up their own orders, with the option of having it placed on their car bonnet or in their boot.