Jasmin Gaskin and Emily Duffy serving their final customers of the day at River Kitchen. Photo: Erin Bradnock.

Summer slows for the hospitality industry

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Local hospitality operators are thankful for a busy holiday season but, now the buzz has worn off, they are worried about a slowdown.

Hopgoods Restaurant on Trafalgar Street experienced a 30 per cent reduction in profit last week compared to the week before, says owner Kevin Hopgood.

“It’s quite up and down for us. Normally the summer rush lasts until March but it’s not looking like that will happen this year,” he says.

The gap left by international travellers has not only made an impact on customers but an impact on staff.

“We are seeing that across the board with staff shortages, from chefs, wait for staff to kitchen hands. Everyone in towns got a ‘staff wanted’ sign up.”

President of the Nelson Hospitality Association, Ian Williams, describes this summer season as “unpredictable” as the staff shortages are making it difficult for business owners to manage. As such, they are often forced to shorten opening hours.

“We just don’t know what February and March will be like. The short-term peak just been, paired with the difficulty of staff, leaves a real risk,” he says.

Burger Culture owner Phil Williams says they too had a busy Christmas and New Year’s period but is concerned with what lies ahead.

“I think a lot of business owners are scratching their heads concerning the end of summer,” he says.

Burger Culture has had to adjust its opening hours from seven days a week to six days a week. The Vic House has gone down to five days from seven.

Owner of River Kitchen, Blue Flemming, says it’s been a slow summer so far for their café.

“December was slightly down for us. I think mainly because we haven’t the cruise ships and Bay Dreams was half the size of what it normally was.

“I did a quick calculation the other day looking at numbers from lockdown to now and it’s almost identical figures to 2019. Business is just slightly down this December and January,” he says.

Blue says that international tourists are typically more likely to spend more than domestic tourists out with their families.

Chief executive of the Nelson Chamber of Commerce, Ali Boswijk, says that while it’s been a busy summer for tourism in the region, it’s looking like a shorter summer season.

“Things are better than some people would have hoped for but we’re not seeing those forward bookings we normally would for February and March,” she says.

Ian wants to remind customers to “to be kind and patient” to hospitality staff while dining out this summer season.

“There’s a bit of worry but everybody’s doing their best to ride through this together.”