Good Group weathers the storm

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A major Queenstown-based hospitality group believes it’s found the right ingredients for success after several challenging years. 

Good Group – best known for its Botswana Butchery restaurants, high-end bars and colourful majority owner Al Spary – turned over more than $30 million in the year to March. 

Auckland-based managing director Russell Gray says: “We returned good strong profitability and the forecast for the year we’ve just gone into looks even better.” 

However, things weren’t so rosy a few years ago. 

“We had a lot of plates up in the air we were all trying to keep circling. 

“One or two were starting to crash to the ground and we’d have to reload them again.” 

The solution, Gray says, was “to focus on the businesses that are performing well and make them perform even better and unhitch the saddlebags of the ones that aren’t really performing”. 

The company sold its Betty’s Liquor bottle stores, a mobile bar, Queenstown’s Skybar and the Botswana Butchery in Wanaka. 

“We’ve got far less operations than we used to have but a lot more bigger ones because we’ve learnt it is the scale that actually achieves the profitability. 

“The other thing we’ve done is we wanted to spread our risk geographically – by moving into Christchurch and Auckland, we managed to smooth out the seasonality.” 

Good Group was lucky to buy two neighbouring Christchurch bars in Merivale – they were “almost the last man standing” after the 2011 quake. 

“We became an incredibly busy precinct overnight but it was always a good precinct pre-earthquake,” Gray says. 

Good Group opened an Auckland Botswana Butchery in the iconic downtown Ferry Building early last year. 

After enduring “a baptism of fire” due to service issues, Gray says they got slicker and served more than 50,000 customers in their first 12 months. 

On the back of Botswana’s success, Good Group also leased the upstairs Harbourside Seafood Bar & Grill. 

After trading through the summer, it’s closed for a refit and reopens in July as a premium seafood restaurant. 

“By the time we’ve finished with this building we would’ve pumped in northwards of $4m,” Gray says. 

Good Group’s also looking for a Christchurch Botswana site and may even go offshore. 

Despite Queenstown’s Botswana facing more high-end competitors, Gray says it’s busier than ever. 

“We welcome the quality competition but I’m not sure some of these new operators have got the right location.” 

Gray says his company would like to open another large-scale Queenstown restaurant. 

“We think there’s room for that – they can’t eat at Botswana every night of the week.”