A normal Sunday morning shift at a south Auckland Burger King turned terrifying when staff were held at knifepoint.
The manager of the Mangere store told Newshub the day was quiet until two people walked in and began to berate staff.
"I was out the back of the shop when I heard swearing, so I ran to the front and there was this man and this lady just going off at my co-worker," Claire Paea told Newshub.
"I asked what was wrong and he said no one should be littering on his land."
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Suspecting the man was on drugs, 23-year-old Paea approached him and removed him from the store, at which point the situation grew serious.
"He asked the woman to give him the knife and she just handed it over to him. She gladly handed it over."
Paea was now outside with the two enraged customers.
"I sent my crew inside and then followed them in and tried to lock the doors," she said.
Unable to lock the doors, Paea says she stood and held them closed while the man smashed the glass before heading around the side of the building and back into the restaurant.
"I started swearing at him to get his attention back on me while my crew ran outside."
"I didn't do it for myself, I did because people send their kids to work and expect them to be safe there," she told Newshub.
"My staff comes here and they're under my name. They're my family outside of home and their safety is my responsibility."
She said the man finally left when three brothers who were eating nearby intervened.
"I think he got scared 'cause he was outnumbered, and we all had our phones out."
Paea called the police but said they didn't arrive for about half an hour.
Police acknowledged there was a delay in their response.
"We are reviewing our response for any learnings," Inspector Phil Weaver told Newhsub on Tuesday.
"We have since spoken to the victim and have been working closely with her."
Weaver says police are following "very strong" lines of enquiry to identify the offenders.
Paea said she was trained to respond to dangerous situations, but "they never happen the way you think they will".
But the young manager said she wouldn't change her response.
"If the same thing happened again, I wouldn't change anything. I'd do it all again to keep my staff safe."