Hospo businesses under the pump

Influx: The queues are back at Queenstown's Camp Street Cookie Time store as visitors flock to the resort

Bars and restaurants are at full stretch as visitors flood into Queenstown for winter.

In what is being described as ‘‘the perfect storm’’ of snow and school holidays, local hospitality businesses are attempting to balance staffing constraints with meeting the
sudden increase in demand.

Restaurants and bars are consistently at full capacity, some having to turn people away, and accommodation providers are seeing bookings go through the roof.

Fat Badgers Pizza Bar owner Matt Marsh says his restaurant has seen “amazing numbers” in the first 10 days of the Australian school holidays.

‘‘We’re just [being] smashed.

‘‘We’ve got queues down the footpath … it’s tremendous, the amount of people … I thought I had enough staff, but no, I don’t.’’

Despite having to open limited hours, offer a smaller menu and intermittently close, due to staff isolating, Marsh says the pizza bar hits full capacity ‘‘as soon as we open the doors’’.

While he says inflation has to be taken into account, the venue is up about 10% on day-by-day turnover compared to pre-Covid.

The Cow owner Mal Price says his customer numbers are also similar to pre-Covid, but despite the demand, the venue can’t currently operate seven days a week.

‘‘We’re shutting five lunches a week and one night a week because we just can’t staff it up.’’

Good Group Hospitality chief operations manager Hamish Klein says they operate five venues in Queenstown, including Botswana Butchery and White + Wong’s, which are having to shut two days a week due to staffing issues.

‘‘We try to fill the venues up before we turn anyone away.

‘‘Occasionally when we have sickness, that does put pressure on, and we have to adjust accordingly.’’

Klein says if they were able to fully staff the venues, patronage would be close to what it was in 2019.

‘‘But we really need the borders to open fully to really get back to where we were and, of course, we really need the working holiday visa people to be able to start coming in.’’

Relaxaway Holiday Homes business manager Jenny Parkes says it’s been a record month for bookings in the short-term holiday accommodation market.

They’re up 125% on booking revenue this month compared to July, 2019.

‘‘We were expecting it to be a busy winter … [but] the demand and the volume of bookings and the value of the bookings — it’s really exceeded our expectations, so it’s a good feeling after a tough two years.’’

She says the demand is strong right through to the start of summer, already.

Destination Queenstown boss Mat Woods says it’s wonderful to be welcoming visitors back, and, so far, the visitor experience is positive.

‘‘It’s certainly feeling busy in Queenstown, but some of this may be compounded by some of the staff shortages we’re experiencing and the roadworks.

‘‘Whilst we’re feeling it as locals, I’m really pleased to say that our visitor experience survey results are really strong and well above the national average.’’

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