On the first morning of Level 2 Alert, Sam Yearby, general manager of Castro’s Spanish tapas restaurant, was preparing for a big day.
Castro’s in Riverside Market did not reopen below Level 3 so this was the first day customers faced.
Under Covid-zero circumstances, a Castro-sized restaurant can accommodate 250 guests at a time, so the reduction to 50 indoors and 100 outdoors, as required under Level 2 restrictions, was “huge” in Yearby’s words.
While the Castro team will do whatever it takes to get the job done safely, a 60 percent reduction in capacity will have an impact on the business.
* Covid-19: Barista “confused” when police send him home against government advice
* New canopy for year-round protection at Riverside Market in Christchurch
* Cafe Chat: Midnight Shanghai brings modern Chinese food to Christchurch
“We’re worried,” said Yearby. “Of course we can’t have the big groups. We usually go through quite a few large groups. We worry how long it might be, but everyone has to do their part. We are not above the law and like everyone else we will do what it takes until we can fill the place again. “
Castro’s offers its full menu, but Yearby admitted it was a bit of a moving feast.
“We’ll take it as it comes once the public shows us what they’re looking for,” he said.
“We hope the public will pile up [the place] and are ready for a beer and a decent meal. “
On the other side of the market, the modern Chinese restaurant Midnight Shanghai opened during Level 3, but it was extremely quiet.
It was “pretty much like we just opened it to clean,” said owner and operator Mia Zhao.
She tried to diversify the business by offering frozen packs of dumplings from sister company Central Grains and launching Uber Eats, although Zhao wasn’t sure if this was right for the business.
She only made between $ 40 and $ 50 some days and relied on the wage subsidy to pay employees.
Now Midnight Shanghai was sure to welcome the guests back, and Zhao hoped the nearby Riverside Market community would gather after a daunting Level 3 experience.
She wanted to fully utilize her employees as soon as possible.
“As long as the [wage] Subsidies are there, they help a lot, but when we don’t need them, so much the better. Either way, we don’t worry too much as long as we can pay our employees. “
Rachel Gould, general manager of Riverside Market, said all the companies in the complex share Zhao’s tenacity.
“All of our dealers are so resilient, they’ve been through so much with the quakes,” said Gould. “After the last lockdown, one of our tenants said to me, ‘Well Rachel, all the buildings are still there this time’. The attitude is – we’ve been through worse, we can catch up and move on. “
Jayden Smith and the Empire Chicken team did just that and carried on as usual. They were so busy during Level 3, like a busy summer week, that they had to take two days off to regroup.
Below level 2, the little eatery would continue to hand out fried chicken orders to eat, take away and deliver.
The fact that the restaurant only seats 19 has made compliance a lot easier.
“We already had about three feet between our tables anyway, so we could only move them a little,” said Smith.
An off-site production kitchen that can prepare orders for delivery had also streamlined this side of the business, although increased demand below Level 3 meant that delivery partners cut their bottom line.
“It was great to see some money come back into our account,” said Smith.
Business was not at full capacity again in the winter after the initial lockdown, but the signs are much more positive this time around.
The public has so far supported and followed requests for social distancing, Smith said. “It was really nice to see.”