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‘Think local, buy local’ – food and beverage customers urged to back neighbourhood businesses

The rallying cry from Finance Minister Grant Robertson today for New Zealanders to back locally-owned and operated businesses has been vigorously endorsed by a leading food and beverage and retailing industry figure.

During today’s Covid-19 media briefing at Parliament, Mr Robertson appealed strongly for Kiwis to ‘get in behind’ local businesses which were about to resume trading after being starved of revenue during the level-four lockdown.

The Minister said business owners had worked hard to find innovative ways to make contactless sales under level-three conditions from Tuesday. He urged consumers to support them and the economy by buying local with small businesses in their community.

National retail sales and leasing director for Bayleys Real Estate, Chris Beasleigh, said tight border restrictions, lockdown conditions and ongoing social distancing requirements spelt a deeply challenging period for the nation’s hospitality and retailing sector.

The challenges were likely to continue and evolve for over a year until a Covid-19 vaccine became available. During this time, the primary focus of many operators would be on ensuring their business survives through to the ‘other side’.

“In these trying conditions, the very concept of ‘local’ will be redefined for operators in the food and beverage, retailing, and hospitality sectors,” said Mr Beasleigh.

“There certainly will be a movement among consumers towards supporting local and neighbourhood businesses and Kiwi-made products generally.

“But in the foodservice sector, restaurants, cafes and bars which are located close to where people live – and understand who they serve and what it is that local people want and need from them – will be best equipped to ride out the challenging time ahead. And local and neighbourhood residents can play their part by spending local where they can.

“Business owners will have to constantly adapt to changing restrictions as the country moves through alert levels, as well as evolving economic conditions as rising unemployment and falling incomes begin to bite,” Mr Beasleigh said.

This environment would call more than ever for agility, creativity and resilience to constantly adapt business models.

“For example, being home-based with reduced incomes, is seeing a big increase in households relying on home cooking. Local food outlets may find themselves increasingly competing with mums and dads cooking supermarket produce, rather than with other restaurants or cafes,” said Mr Beasleigh.

“The ability for dine-in outlets to provide takeaway or delivered meals at very reasonable prices will be paramount. As economic conditions deteriorate further, many may consider offering cheaper re-heatable meals or even ingredients and recipes. Bars which are not licensed for off-premise alcohol sales may adopt online orders and deliveries of food from the kitchen.

“Operators which are located in residential areas, and are well established within their local communities, will have an advantage. But their success will depend on the loyalty and support of local clientele.

“In this regard, I can only heartily support Grant Robertson’s appeal for Kiwis to back the local food and beverage outlets they have enjoyed in the past - and hope to continue enjoying in the future,” said Mr Beasleigh.

“For the good of our small businesses and the New Zealand economy, this needs to be the new mantra: ‘Think local, buy local’.”

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