Marisa Bidois, CEO of the Restaurant Association of New Zealand.

First quarter 2021 has proven to be a mixed bag for the hospitality industry, as some regions benefitted from domestic holiday makers, while other regions suffered for this same reason.

City businesses reported a slow return to working from the office, as people eased back into work much later in January, or began their first weeks back by working from home.

The start of February marked a return to ‘normal’, until a community outbreak thrust the country back into higher alert levels on Valentine’s Day 2021.

Alert level movements continued through February, particularly affecting the Auckland region, and it was not until March 12 that the country returned to level 1.

However, as industry sales continue to regain lost ground industry recruitment challenges are widely being discussed as the most critical factor affecting the industry now, with critical staff shortages forcing businesses to operate at reduced capacity.

Hospitality continues to show resilience, recording sales growth in the 1st quarter of 2021 that exceeds pre-Covid levels.

Despite the unsettled trading environment in the 1st quarter of 2021, sales for the hospitality industry over the period, January – March 2021, continued to regain lost ground, growing by 5.3 per cent over the same quarter in 2020.

There was, however, a decline over the previous quarter (October – December 2020). In comparison to the 4th quarter of 2020 the industry’s sales from January – March 2021 were 7 per cent less.

Overall, sales for the period January – March 2021 were $3,077.2 million, which exceeded sales totals for the same period in both 2019 and 2020, when sales reached $2,992.6 and $2,922.5 million respectively.

“It’s still very much a mixed bag out there,” says Marisa Bidois CEO of the Restaurant Association. “While some businesses are recovering well, many others are still experiencing significant losses. Establishments in tourist hotspots as well as Auckland CBD are still down on last year with the trend of city centre workers staying home and lost tourist dollars continuing to cause significant reductions in trade.”

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