Restaurants call for more financial support, subsidised fine dining and a GST-free feed

The Restaurant Association says 1000 businesses in the industry have been lost since the start of the pandemic and that many again are at risk of disappearing if the Government doesn't cough up more in subsidies and tax breaks. 

"We saw many businesses reopening in Auckland yesterday, but they're putting on a brave face for customers at the moment," chief executive Marisa Bidois told The AM Show on Thursday.

"Many are struggling. We're talking accumulated debt here as well - it's not just this lockdown that we're experiencing as an industry, it's a cumulative effect. The last 18 months have been very challenging for so many of our businesses."

Auckland moved to level 3 on Wednesday, allowing many eateries to resume trading via pickup and delivery, but not dining in. Kiwis in other parts of the country have been reluctant to go out, despite restaurants being able to open at level 2, albeit with reduced capacity. 

"Many reports from across the country for those at level 2 have been reports that trade has been slower than previous level 2s," said Bidois. "We think it would be great to support the public to get out there and dine out and support their local eateries."

To encourage that, and tide them over until business picks up again, the Restaurant Association has released a bunch of ideas it's calling the 'Future of Hospitality Roadmap', to prevent another 1000 businesses from disappearing. 

Among the ideas are an extension of the wage subsidy to include businesses affected under level 2. While businesses can apply for the subsidy under level 2 if any other part of the nation is under level 3 or 4, it's hoped Auckland will soon join the rest of the country at level 2 - and when that happens no one will be eligible, despite the ongoing financial hit to the hospitality sector. 

The Restaurant Association has also asked Finance Minister Grant Robertson for a 'reopening payment' "that would go to businesses to help them reorder stock, get their businesses sorted, to open". 

"Cashflow is such an issue when you are experiencing zero revenue coming into your business for five weeks," said Bidois.

She's also suggesting a 'lockout subsidy' based on either a venue's typical sales under level 1 or the number of full-time employees; a 'food waste minimisation payment', subsidised meals for people who dine out (up to $20 per person) or vouchers, and for GST-free dining. 

Bidois said the industry has had opportunities to meet with Robertson and officials and present the ideas. 

"I'm hopeful they will be taken seriously and considered." 

The full roadmap can be read on the Restaurant Association's website