Latin food popularity increases

  • Breaking
  • 19/06/2014

A new report from the Restaurant Association (RA) shows the hospitality industry is enjoying a boost in sales, especially in Latin American cuisine.

A half-finished building site on Dixon Street will soon become Wellington's latest Mexican restaurant.

Mexico has four locations in Auckland and will add to a burgeoning market in the capital, with another on the way in Christchurch.

"People are understanding that Mexican food, especially, is not bowls of nachos and dirty burritos, that it can be quite exquisite," says Mexico's general manager Nick McCaw.

"What we're doing and what other people are starting to do is starting to create really rich experiences, but not with that price tag that they've historically had to pay."

That price tag means Kiwis are filling up more frequently.

"It's no longer just a special occasion or a treat, it's priced well enough that it makes it an affordable alternative rather than going home after a busy day at work and having to cook a meal," says RA's Mike Egan.

In the year to March 31, the report found:

  • Nationwide sales increased 6.3 percent to $7.6 billion;
  • Cafe and restaurant sales had strong growth, up $345 million;
  • Canterbury sales were up 10.8 percent, with Auckland and Wellington further behind.

There is also a trend moving away from taking reservations, to cater for walk-up diners. Sweet Mother's Kitchen (SMK) has done it for years.

"We like the idea of people being able to walk in, sit around, extent their experience by having a drink at the bar rather than having to turn them away because we're fully booked for the night," says SMK's Rebecca Dickie.

But there are challenges facing restaurants, the main ones being increased labour costs and a shortage of skilled workers.

Increased competition is also cited as a challenge, though consumers would probably say that is a good thing.

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