Hospitality owners say conditions tougher now than during COVID-19

Some hospitality owners say conditions now are tougher than during COVID-19.

Eftpos provider Worldline says spending at cafes and restaurants is starting to decline, and three high-profile restaurants announced their closures in the last week.

And it's feared more will follow.

It's lunchtime at Auckland's waterfront, and there's not much going on.

After enduring lockdowns and staff shortages, a big customer downturn is now hitting our hospo scene.

"People are dining out less - mortgage rates are through the roof so fine dining is the first thing that gets cut," said Paris Butter co-owner Catherine George.

So, at high-end Auckland restaurant Paris Butter, they're offering cheaper menu options, and for now, making a profit is off the table.

The new goal is just getting staff and suppliers paid.

"Break even. Just, get through this tough period," George said.

Bread and Butter cafe owner Isabel Pasch said she's experienced a 30 percent spending downturn since July, as her customer's choices change.

"Instead of ordering lunch from the menu, they might just order a sandwich," she said.

Eftpos provider Worldline says it's noticed card-spending in the hospitality sector has started to fall in the last few weeks, compared to this time last year. And the Restaurant Association says that dip is being felt industry-wide.

"We are hearing from our members that it feels worse than COVID," said Restaurant Association general manager Nicola Waldron.

Three high-profile restaurant closures have been announced in the last week - the top-rated Shepherd in Wellington, Field and Green also in the capital, and Inca in Auckland's Newmarket.

And Pasch thinks there's going to be "way more". The lead-up to Christmas usually provides a big boost, but MYOB's survey of Kiwis contains an ominous sign.

"Unfortunately what we're seeing is about 40 percent of New Zealanders plan to spend less over the upcoming silly season," said MYOB NZ corporate affairs manager Anna-Louise Hoffmann.

Restaurants say customers are always welcome - even if you spend less, bums on seats will help them at least break even.