A central city brew garden that was shut down only four months after it opened is the only Christchurch bar in the running to be crowned New Zealand’s best.

And the secret to its success is its 26-year-old manager, who persuaded his way into the job and has now found himself in business with his boss.

Kaiser Brew Garden is a finalist in the Best Bar category of the national Hospitality Awards for Excellence. Kaiser Brew Garden is one of only two South Island bars to take a top-five finalist spot, and one of only six Canterbury businesses named as a finalist across all categories.

Kaiser Brew Garden’s co-owner Campbell Parker puts a good deal of Kaiser’s success down to Mason Lattimore, the bar’s inspirational general manager.

“Three years ago when Mason first asked me for the GM job I laughed and told him he was too inexperienced and wouldn’t last long. Now he owns the bar with me – that’s quite a journey,” says Campbell.

Kaiser Brew Garden opened in November 2019. Four months later the country went into a nationwide lockdown. Despite the challenges of launching a hospitality business amidst a pandemic, Kaiser Brew Garden has built a strong reputation and boasts a unique food and beverage offering, being the only micro-brewery in the central city.

Campbell says while the environment and product offering is exceptional, it’s Mason who is providing the X-factor behind the business’ success.

“I give Mason a lot of the credit for where we are today. He’s like a friendly golden retriever, with boundless energy, enthusiasm, and positivity that you just can’t train. He offers pure hospitality that our guests and staff love.”

Campbell met Mason when he employed him as a barista at his previous business, The Old Vicarage in Halswell.  When Mason heard Campbell was opening a new bar he called a meeting to ask to be the general manager. 

“Campbell was brutally honest about my youth and lack of management experience at the time.  I think he thought I was too young for such a key leadership role but I was determined to prove him wrong. I kept knocking on his door, asking to be given a shot and now we’re in business together, so he’s really had to eat his words!” says Mason.

“Mason has an undeniable passion and personality for hospitality, and his perseverance and persuasion was impressive. In the end, I figured he was someone I could mentor and trust, so I gave him a chance,” says Campbell.

Campbell has never looked back, saying Mason has absolutely thrived in the role, soaking up knowledge like a sponge while exuding an infectious passion for hospitality.

“Mason’s leadership and intrinsic people skills have seen him develop a warmth and welcome at Kaiser that is now well-known. People often enthusiastically comment to me about Mason and tell me they come to Kaiser because there’s such a happy vibe there.  Considering the world today, a ‘happy place’ is where people want to be. I have no doubt Mason has been a key driver of that,” says Campbell.

Mason became a shareholder in Kaiser Brew Garden in late 2021.

“I’m so proud at 26 years old to be a shareholder in Christchurch’s best bar. Being at the helm of Kaiser Brew Garden has been my dream job and I jump out of bed every day to get to work. Many hospitality businesses offer good food or drink, but what makes Kaiser special is our team culture focused on how we make guests feel when they’re with us. That’s true hospitality and I love providing that,” says Mason.

Campbell says to have a thriving, successful hospitality industry we need to nurture talent.

“Rob Mercer, who was then owner of Sticky Fingers, took a chance on me in hospitality nearly twenty years ago, and now I’m paying that forward with Mason. I have no doubt he will be a key player and leader in Christchurch’s hospitality future,” says Campbell.

The staff at Kaiser Brew Garden agree, having nominated Mason for the Future Leader of the Year Award at the Hospitality Awards.

“When Campbell told me about the staff nominating me for the Future Leader of the Year Award, I got a bit emotional. I was blown away by them doing that.”

Last year Kaiser won the People’s Choice Award at the national Hospitality NZ Awards. Winners will be announced at the Hospitality Awards for Excellence 2022 Black Tie Dinner tonight in Auckland at the Grand Millennium Hotel. The dinner is being held as part of the Hospitality New Zealand Future of Hospitality Conference, an event focused on the industry’s post-pandemic recovery.

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