It’s no surprise that COVID-19 has hit hard, and nowhere more so than in the hospitality industry. Here operators have been hanging on for dear life, valiantly battling through the uncertainty of shutdowns, staff shortages, lack of overseas visitors and emptied-out city centres as many of us continue to work from home.

According to recent analysis from ANZ, the industry is seeing 60% less activity than normal. Marisa Bidois, CEO of the Restaurant Association, said, “The compounding losses of last year mean that many business owners have had to make some very tough financial decisions. Depending on how much cash flow they had to start off with, many are in a very precarious position. As diners return, the staffing crisis means many can’t offer their full service, which is impacting revenues.” Add in another round of level-4 lockdown and recent survey results in which almost 50% of respondents say they will dine out less in future, and it’s an unsavoury picture out there.

It’s time to think outside the box about creating additional revenue streams. American Express has developed the first-ever Shop Small campaign, offering small businesses the tools to reach out and connect, and cardholders the benefits to support small local businesses. Clever new kids on the block Meez have identified that location can be a major restriction on where or what we can eat, and have launched an Auckland pilot to deliver meal kits by outstanding restaurants Culprit, Cazador and Cocoro, with plans to take the offering nationwide in mid-October. These initiatives show that traditional restaurant revenue models can evolve. At the very basic level, most restaurants offer a gift voucher option where you can show your support by giving the gift of anticipation: the promise of gathering around a table making memories that will stick around long past New Year. Chef/owner Sam Clark at Napier’s Central Fire Station put it so well on a recent Instagram post: “Give something you know people want. Food. Wine. Conversation. CONNECTION.”