Twelve percent of Auckland's devastated hospitality industry is preparing to shut up shop - permanently - in the next 30 days, and financial assistance is urgently needed to keep struggling businesses afloat, a hospitality industry group says.
On Thursday, New Zealand's Restaurant Association revealed it had launched a nationwide petition calling on the Government to provide targeted support for the hospitality industry, a sector that contributes more than $11 billion to the economy and employs over 133,000 people across the country.
"There has not been any targeted support for the industry through the COVID-19 pandemic to date," says Restaurant Association CEO Marisa Bidois.
"Hospitality operators continue to be impacted by alert level changes, border closures and consumer uncertainty. Without focused, targeted assistance, many hospitality businesses will not survive."
As revenue dwindles significantly under Auckland's current alert level 3 restrictions, the organisation is imploring the Government to adopt a scheme similar to the popular 'Eat Out to Help Out' initiative seen in the UK. Dubbed 'Dine Out to Help Out', the home-grown adaptation aims to encourage Kiwis to put cash back into the pockets of hospitality businesses, but at a discounted price.
In the UK, 'Eat Out to Help Out' sees the government subsidise 50 percent of the bill for meals eaten at a cafe, restaurant or pub - excluding alcohol - from Monday to Wednesday until the end of August. Patrons can save a maximum of £10 (roughly NZ$20) per person at more than 70,000 venues. Within the first week, the initiative was used more than 10.5 million times, and has already been hailed as a success by many local restaurateurs.
If implemented, the 'Dine out to Help Out' proposal would operate under a similar structure to its UK equivalent, the Association says, taking into account that an in-house dining initiative would only successfully work under alert level 1.
"We're offering some ideas we think would help the industry. We have enormous support for it as well so far," Bidois told The AM Show on Thursday.
"When we get back to level 1, if we have a month of supported dining out, that would really help businesses keep their doors open, keep people employed - and it would also be a great opportunity for Kiwis to reconnect with loved ones and friends. We think it would have a really positive effect across the board."
A survey conducted by the Restaurant Association this week found that of the hospitality businesses able to remain open at alert level 3 in Auckland:
- 87 percent were reporting revenues significantly lower than the same period last year
- 12 percent were anticipating closing for good in the next 30 days
- 49 percent were looking to change their current business model to survive.
For the rest of New Zealand's hospitality businesses operating under level 2:
- 49 percent were reporting revenues significantly lower than the same period last year
- 29 percent were reporting lower year-on-year revenues
- 5 percent were anticipating closing for good in the next 30 days
- 40 percent were looking to change their current business model to survive.
"Our industry has been battling for months now, with thousands of jobs lost and businesses looking to close their doors for good. This country has an incredible hospitality scene and if we want it to survive the pandemic's ongoing impact, the Government needs to do something different," Bidois said.
The petition for the Dine out to Help out initiative can be signed online via the New Zealand Parliament website here and the Dine Out Help Out website here.