Coronavirus: Hospitality industry estimates billions of dollars lost during lockdown

The hospitality industry estimates it has lost billions of dollars during the nationwide lockdown.

The sector is eagerly awaiting the shift to level 2 so customers can finally return to dining in at restaurants and cafes.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will announce on Monday whether the country will make the highly anticipated move from level 3 down to level 2.

The change will mean more businesses can open, and rules around social distancing will relax. 

People will no longer have to stick to their own bubbles, with physical distancing to be reduced to one metre outside of people's homes and on public transport. Gatherings of 100 people, both indoors and outdoors, will also be allowed to take place.

Cafes and restaurants will also be able to open for customers to eat in, although a number of rules will have to be followed. Tables must be separated by two metres and have a single server. Only table service will be allowed, meaning customers can't go up to the counter, and there will be no standing around waiting for a table.

Julie White, chief executive of Hospitality NZ, says the rules mean businesses will end up spending more and earning less. But still, it's far better than nothing. 

"Bring on level 2," White told The AM Show on Friday. "Actually bring on level 1."

White said the lockdown had cost the hospitality industry billions of dollars in lost earnings so far.

"Things are dire. To put it into perspective, it represents $40 million a day that we lose, every day that we're not open," she said.

"It equates to, we've worked out, about $2.3 billion."

After shutting up shop for so long, businesses are now desperate to get some income back.

Although the move to level 3 meant food and beverages could be sold in a way that avoids face-to-face transactions, that has done little to dent the economic impact on businesses.

"All our members are ready to open up. We've done our bit, we've shut our business, we've kept people employed - we're really ready to go and open our doors as soon as the Prime Minister allows us to do that."

Ardern on Thursday said it was possible that the shift to level could be phased in, meaning the next step could essentially be a level 2.5.

But White said a staggered approach would make things even tougher for businesses. Even an immediate shift to level 2 would be difficult.

"Essentially what it really means is reduced income, increased expenses should you open - that's the reality. If they do do a phased approach - 2.5 - that means more people will choose not to open. It's just not viable."

Earlier this week the Restaurant Association called on the Government to give more support to the industry. According to a survey by the association, 89 percent of its members had experienced a downturn in businesses and 75 percent said they would need to reduce their staff in the next 30 days just to stay afloat.

Marisa Bidois, the association's chief executive, said it would take a long time for businesses to bounce back.

"Consumer confidence is still expected to be low and combined with the losses the industry has been carrying since the drop in tourism numbers in February we do expect the ramifications of this to last well beyond a year."

Even when social distancing rules are relaxed, it is predicted many people will still avoid crowded areas out of health concerns.

White said customers could rest assured they would be safe in restaurants and cafes. 

"I can guarantee you that safety is number one - so you are safe to go out, that's not a problem," she said.

"[There will be] increased hygiene, we've got contact tracing in place, employees all briefed on health and safety. We're working really closely with Work Safe to ensure that, so no one should be scared about going out."

White said the best way for people to help the industry out was to head to their favourite cafe or restaurant as soon as possible.

"My invitation to New Zealand is come out, support your local and enjoy."