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Presentation to Parliament’s Epidemic Response Committee (Komiti Ārai Mate Urutā)

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Wednesday 8 April 2020

Our CEO, Marisa Bidois represented the hospitality industry today in the Epidemic Response Committee meeting. The meeting was streamed live online, you can catch the recording here. Marisa’s address was from 2:49:00.

The transcript of the presentation is below:


Thank you Mr Chair, and Kia ora Committee Members. I am Marisa Bidois, Chief Executive of the Restaurant Association of New Zealand. Thank you for the opportunity to present to you today. It means a lot to both me and my industry.

Mr Chair, I have heeded your calls for sticking to time, and cut down my
presentation by about half. My presentation will still consist of a brief introductory overview about the Restaurant Association, before diving into the impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry.

I will then cover the scope and quality of government assistance to date, and the opportunities we see for New Zealand’s hospitality industry, as we move out of Alert Level 4 and into what has been described as the creation of a ‘new normal’.

I will then be happy to answer any questions you might have. Much of the data and insight that I touch on today is also contained in the supplementary briefing provided to you in advance of today’s hearing.

Brief overview

Our Association advocates for more than 2,300 hospitality businesses in New Zealand, representing more than 69,000 employees.We were established in 1972, to offer advice, help and assistance in every facet of the vibrant and diverse hospitality industry, as well as to advocate for our Members.

At its very core, our mission is to be the link between good food and good
business so that our Member businesses can thrive. Our Members cover the length and breadth of the country – and range from your favourite local fish and chip shop, through to coffee kiosks and fine dining establishments. Ours is an industry of small business owners, passionate entrepreneurs actively working in their establishments – You will have all frequented an Association member venue at least once, and you most likely have more than one in your community: it is these people I am here to represent today.

Before the current COVID-19 pandemic, the hospitality industry was growing: we Presentation to Epidemic Response Committee employed more than 133,000 people, over 18,000 restaurants and food outlets, generating annual sales in excess of $11 billion. But of course, this has now all changed: no doubt many of you are missing your regular flat white or visiting your favourite lunch spot throughout this period, just as the rest of New Zealand misses theirs.

The impact on the hospitality industry

The impact of COVID-19 on hospitality is most appropriately described as both catastrophic and potentially devastating. At the outset I want to acknowledge the Government’s decision in putting health first. We support the decision to use lockdown as a way to get the virus under control and the Committee can be assured that insofar as hospitality is involved, our top priority is to support this effort.

The impact of the virus first made itself known to us in January, and by February we had started receiving a steady stream of feedback from Members that fallout from the COVID-19 virus was beginning to have far reaching consequences with businesses noticing a significant drop in foot-traffic as a result of travel restrictions and local diners concerns. By March we were strongly advocating for financial assistance at a similar level to that which was offered following the Kaikourā Earthquake, and the wage
subsidy package announced by the Finance Minister was welcome relief to many members. For businesses with their backs against a wall, it renewed hope that they may be able to continue to trade long term.

The lockdown was imposed eight days later and all hospitality businesses were advised to close their doors almost immediately. This resulted in the inability of nearly 100 per cent of our Members businesses to trade, and the fates of many of our hospitality businesses changed drastically.

VIEW THE ENTIRE PRESENTATION HERE

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